Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Live in orbit: Endeavour inspections continue

Endeavour astronauts are more than halfway through today's inspection of shuttle heat shields, running about 90 minutes ahead of schedule.

Using the Orbiter Boom Sensing System, a 50-foot arm extenstion equipped with cameras and laser sensors at the tip, the seven astronauts completed scans of the right wing leading edge and nose cap area.

The left wing leading edge is next.

The so-called "late" inspection is a last check to make sure that the orbiter's heat-shielding tiles and reinforced carbon-carbon panels weren't damaged during more than 13 days of flight so far.

Analysts in Houston will review the images as they are downloaded in near real time, checking for any dings or gouges that could pose a danger.

Mission managers are expected to determine by Thursday afternoon at the latest whether Endeavour is clear to land Friday morning at Kennedy Space Center.

If a major problem was discovered, Endeavour could still return to the International Space Station. Endeavour undocked from the station less than 24 hours ago to begin its journey home.

Weather permitting, Endeavour plans to land at 10:48 a.m. EDT Friday.

Editor's Note: For the second consecutive day, two major NASA news events are happening at once and you can watch both live here in The Flame Trench.

For live coverage of the Human Space Flight Plans committee starting at 9 a.m. Eastern, you can click here to open the live video feed of NASA TV's Media Channel.

For live coverage of the ongoing space shuttle mission, you can click here to open the live video feed of NASA TV's Public Channel.

Here's the mission's most recent NASA TV schedule for a look at remaining mission milestones.

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