Endeavour crew checks heat shield

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Cape Canaveral (FL) – NASA remains tight light about a possible damage to the space shuttle, which may have been caused by falling debris during yesterday’s launch. However, NASA said that the shuttle crew is inspecting the heat shield, which should be completed by about 6:30 p.m. EDT.

The astronauts are using the shuttle’s robotic arm for the standard flight day two inspection of the reinforced carbon carbon wing leading edge and nose cap. The data will be transmitted to NASA’s imagery experts on the ground for analysis.

The “standard’ inspection may not be so standard as there has been concern that falling debris may have damaged the shuttles heat shield.

During the otherwise smooth launch debris fell of the external fuel tank and left three clearly visible marks on the heat-resistant tiles to determine. So far, NASA had not yet said whether those marks could potentially affect the shuttle upon re-entry. However, NASA official William H. Gerstenmaier told reporters that the agency did not consider the marks to be "an issue" as they indicated damage to the coating, rather than deep gouges.

The STS-127 crew is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Friday. During the Thursday standard review, the astronauts also will check out their spacesuits and tools for the mission’s five spacewalks, which will be necessary to complete construction of Japan's Kibo laboratory. The new component will allow International Space Station (ISS) experiments to be exposed to space.

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