Thursday, May 26, 2011

Astronauts Complete Shuttle Damage Inspection

The Endeavour astronauts just finished a thorough survey of shuttle heat shield components so engineers can determine if the spaceship can be cleared for atmospheric reentry next week.

With a 50-foot inspection boom latched to the end of the shuttle's equally lengthy robot arm, Endeavour pilot Gregory "Box" Johnson and four mission specialists scanned the spaceship's composite carbon nosecap and the 44 panels that serve as thermal armor for its wings.

The inspection boom is equipped with laser sensors and a television camera designed to detect damage. In this case, the survey aimed to spot any damage caused by micrometeorite or orbital debris during Endeavour's stay at the station.

The exacting work took five hours to complete. Data beamed back to Mission Control will be analyzed over the next two days.

The inspection normally is done after a shuttle departs the station. However, with shuttle fleet retirement coming up in July, the boom aboard Endeavour is being left at the station.

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