Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Shuttle Update: Chipped tile not serious

Video Story (4mb asf file)

Photo: Nasa/AP

Nasa said Wednesday that a chipped thermal tile on space shuttle Discovery's belly does not appear to be a serious problem, based on what engineers have seen so far. In orbit, meanwhile, Discovery's astronauts slowly and delicately inspected the wings and nose for launch damage, using a 100-foot movable arm with lasers and a camera mounted on its tip.

NASA lead flight director Paul Hill said experts were still receiving and analyzing the data from the inspection, but during his own cursory look at the 3-D footage beamed down to Earth as the lasers panned across the spaceship's surface, "I didn't see anything that stood out."

Discovery settled into orbit Tuesday on the first shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster 2 1/2 years ago. Hours later, the space agency disclosed that an object believed to be a 1 1/2-inch piece of thermal tile appeared to have broken off from a vulnerable spot near the nose landing-gear doors on the underside of the shuttle during liftoff. Hill said Wednesday that engineers were still studying the tile damage, but added, "Their judgment based on the data so far is that it's not going to be an issue." He said the engineers have not yet decided whether to ask NASA to gather more data on the tile by using the arm to inspect the belly.

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Note: I also came across some high-resolution photos of the launch. View them below.

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