Astronauts inspect shuttle on way to space station

Feb 09, 2010 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts-off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Monday, Feb. 8, 2010. Endeavour's six member crew will deliver a large room with a cupola to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

(AP) -- Endeavour's astronauts inspected their ship early Tuesday for any launch damage as they raced toward a 200-mile-high rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Barely a day after blasting into orbit, the space shuttle crew used a 100-foot, laser-tipped boom to check the thermal shielding on the wings and nose. A few pieces of broke off the during Monday morning's launch, including a narrow 1-foot strip. But there was no indication anything hit the shuttle.

A foam strike brought down Columbia in 2003, and orbiting astronauts have carried out exhaustive inspections ever since. Commander George Zamka and his crew performed the routine survey to make sure the launch cameras did not miss something.

The long, laborious process got under way late Monday and stretched into Tuesday morning. The were in the home stretch - surveying Endeavour's left wing - when the screens suddenly went black. Mission Control worked with pilot Terry Virts to get everything back in order. The interruption lasted just a half-hour.

Flight director Kwatsi Alibaruho said nothing of concern was jumping out in the survey, but stressed that the data needed to be analyzed by experts.

will catch up with the space station early Wednesday, performing a slow-motion pirouette for the cameras before docking. The close-up pictures of the shuttle's belly - impossible to see any other way in such detail - will provide even more information regarding Endeavour's health.

The shuttle is delivering a new room to the space station, as well as the biggest window ever launched, part of a fancy domed compartment. Together, the additions are worth more than $400 million.

The five space station residents couldn't wait to see their six shuttle friends.

"Yeah! Endeavour is on our way!" Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi cheered in a Twitter update.

It's been nearly three months since the last shuttle visit. Five missions are on tap this year, then NASA plans to retire the three remaining shuttles.

The space station will be 98 percent complete once the new room, Tranquility, and seven-windowed dome are installed by Endeavour's crew. It will be the final major construction job at the station.

Tranquility eventually will house life-support and exercise equipment, and a toilet. The dome - resembling a big bay window - will provide unprecedented views of Earth, outer space and the space station itself. The round central window is 31 inches across; the six surrounding windows are smaller.

The European Space Agency provided the Tranquility and dome.

The first of three spacewalks to install those compartments is set for Thursday night.

NASA has been flying space shuttles for 29 years and building the space station for 11 years.

Explore further: Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Space shuttle blasts off on last night flight

Feb 08, 2010

(AP) -- Endeavour and six astronauts rocketed into orbit Monday on what's expected to be the last nighttime launch for the shuttle program, hauling a new room and observation deck for the International Space ...

Astronauts inspect space shuttle for launch damage

Jul 16, 2009

(AP) -- Space shuttle Endeavour's astronauts inspected their ship Thursday as engineers on Earth pored over launch pictures that showed debris breaking off the fuel tank and striking the craft.

NASA Starts Space Shuttle Endeavour Countdown Aug. 4

Jul 30, 2007

NASA will start the launch countdown for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-118 mission at 9 p.m. EDT Saturday, Aug. 4, at T-43 hours. The countdown includes 27 hours, 3 minutes of built-in hold time leading to a preferred launch ...

Space shuttle moved to launch pad on freezing morn

Jan 06, 2010

(AP) -- Space shuttle Endeavour is on the launch pad after a freezing three-and-a-half-mile trip. NASA moved the shuttle out of its hangar before dawn Wednesday. The temperature was bitterly cold, getting ...

Recommended for you

Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

Oct 30, 2014

(Phys.org) —As it soared past Saturn's large moon Titan recently, NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

Is space tourism safe or do civilians risk health effects?

Oct 30, 2014

Several companies are developing spacecraft designed to take ordinary citizens, not astronauts, on short trips into space. "Space tourism" and short periods of weightlessness appear to be safe for most individuals ...

An unmanned rocket exploded. So what?

Oct 30, 2014

Sputnik was launched more than 50 years ago. Since then we have seen missions launched to Mercury, Mars and to all the planets within the solar system. We have sent a dozen men to the moon and many more to ...

NASA image: Sunrise from the International Space Station

Oct 30, 2014

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman posted this image of a sunrise, captured from the International Space Station, to social media on Oct. 29, 2014. Wiseman wrote, "Not every day is easy. Yesterday was a tough one. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.