NASA: Nicks On Shuttle Don't Appear to Be Serious

Wednesday, May 13th 2009, 6:21 am
By: News On 6

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Mission Control says a 21-inch string of nicks in the protective tiles on the underside of space shuttle Atlantis does not appear to be a threat to the mission.

Mission managers say the tiles are "pretty thick" and the nicks look "pretty small."

The shuttle is speeding toward the Hubble Space Telescope, scheduled to rendezvous with it tomorrow in an unusually high and risky orbit. Astronauts will be carrying out an intricate series of repairs and upgrades to give the revolutionary telescope another ten years or so of discovery, peering deep into the universe.

The nicks are where the right wing joins the fuselage and apparently happened when debris came off the fuel tank shortly after yesterday's liftoff. NASA says the damage is not particularly serious but says it could warrant another look Friday night before the second of 5 spacewalks.

Since the mission is being carried out in a higher orbit littered with more potentially dangerous space junk, another shuttle, Endeavour, is standing by on a Florida launch pad in case a rescue is needed.

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