Astronauts forced into shorter shuttle survey

May 15, 2010 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
Space shuttle Atlantis lifts-off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Friday May 14, 2010. Atlantis' 12-day mission will deliver a Russian built storage and docking module to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

(AP) -- A pinched cable forced Atlantis' astronauts to resort to a more inconvenient and less comprehensive method of inspecting their space shuttle Saturday as they sped toward a weekend rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Flight controllers, meanwhile, were monitoring a piece of that was threatening to come too close to the space station. They were going to decide Saturday evening whether to move the station into a slightly lower orbit. Even if the station has to dodge out of the way, it won't delay Sunday morning's scheduled docking by Atlantis.

A spokesman said the stalled shuttle survey also would not affect the docking.

The inspection is a standard - and essential - procedure the day after liftoff. A 100-foot boom is used to survey the heat shield on both wings and the nose in a hunt for launch damage. On Saturday morning, however, the could not tilt the bundle of laser sensors and TV camera on the end of the pole.

After zooming in with a handheld camera, the astronauts discovered that one cable was pinched by camera equipment at the end of the boom. They didn't think they could free it.

"Oh come on, man, we've got faith in you," Mission Control said. "Can't crack the whip with a little centrifugal acceleration?"

"Need to pull some G," replied commander Kenneth Ham, referring to gravity forces. "Spin her up," joked Mission Control.

The six astronauts used cameras and binoculars to beam down close-up pictures, so engineers on the ground could see what was wrong. The cable was dented where it was being squished, Ham reported.

Finally, after several hours, Mission Control had the astronauts use the backup set of lasers and camera on the boom, which took longer and left out some potential problem areas. They were limited to the daytime side of Earth because of the digital camera equipment.

The crew focused on the most vulnerable areas - the on the wings and nose. It was questionable whether they could complete the abbreviated job Saturday.

The day-after-launch shuttle inspections were put in place following the 2003 Columbia disaster. Columbia shattered during re-entry because of a hole in the left wing; it was left there by insulating foam that broke off the fuel tank during liftoff.

Only a few small pieces of foam were spotted coming off Atlantis' tank Friday. Nonetheless, the wings and nose still needed to be checked.

This is Atlantis' last planned flight after a quarter-century of service. It's hauling fresh batteries and a new Russian compartment to the space station. Three spacewalks are planned to plug in the batteries and other equipment.

Only two more shuttle flights remain, by Discovery and Endeavour. NASA is ending the program so it can focus on presidential-ordered trips to asteroids and Mars.

Explore further: Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA says space station safe from debris

Mar 16, 2009

(AP) -- NASA gave the all-clear to the international space station Monday, telling its astronauts they would not need to steer away from an orbiting piece of satellite junk.

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.

Discovery Crew Completes Heat Shield Inspection

Oct 24, 2007

The STS-120 crew members completed the day's scheduled inspections of Space Shuttle Discovery’s heat shield before noon EDT. They used Discovery’s robotic arm and an attached boom extension to check the ...

Recommended for you

Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

6 hours ago

Kazakhstan's first-ever Earth observation satellite is to be fired into orbit next week from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, launch company Arianespace said.

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

8 hours ago

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

Apr 23, 2014

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

Professional and amateur astronomers join forces

(Phys.org) —Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time. These amateur astronomers devote hours ...

Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

Kazakhstan's first-ever Earth observation satellite is to be fired into orbit next week from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, launch company Arianespace said.

One in 13 US schoolkids takes psych meds

(HealthDay)—More than 7 percent of American schoolchildren are taking at least one medication for emotional or behavioral difficulties, a new government report shows.

FDA reconsiders behavior-modifying 'shock devices'

(HealthDay)—They're likened to a dog's "shock collar" by some and called a "life-saving treatment" by others. But the days of electro-shock devices as a tool for managing hard-to-control behavior in people ...

Computer program could help solve arson cases

Sifting through the chemical clues left behind by arson is delicate, time-consuming work, but University of Alberta researchers teaming with RCMP scientists in Canada, have found a way to speed the process.