Saturday, July 09, 2011

First Atlantis shield inspection complete

Atlantis astronauts have completed well ahead of schedule today's inspection of heat shields protecting the orbiter's wing leading edges and nose cap.

One reason: the crew skipped a planned lunch break.

So far, there's no indication of any serious damage, but it may be several days before mission managers make a final assessment.

At 2 p.m. EDT, Kwatsi Alibaruho, the lead shuttle flight director, will brief reporter's on the mission's early progress.

At the same time, NASA's Mission Management Team will convene its first in-flight meeting. Chairman LeRoy Cain, the deputy shuttle program manager, will hold a media briefing at 4 p.m. EDT.
If the managers decide any areas on Atlantis need a closer look, a "focused" inspection would be performed on the mission's sixth flight day, next Wednesday.
The four-person Atlantis crew will continue preparations for Sunday's 11:06 a.m. docking at the International Space Station, checking out rendezvous tools, and installing a docking camera and an extension ring on the Orbiter Docking System, and preparing an airlock.
They're scheduled to go to sleep to end their first full day in orbit at 7:29 p.m.

During the final shuttle mission, expected to last 12 or 13 days, Atlantis will deliver supplies that will help keep the station stocked through next year.

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