July 17, 2009

Shuttle to be inspected before docking

The shuttle Endeavour was to perform a backflip Friday so astronauts on the International Space Station can inspect it for damage before docking, NASA said.

Station astronauts were to photograph the shuttle's underside for any damage suffered Wednesday during launch when pieces of thermal foam peeled off the external fuel tank, The New York Times reported Friday.

A preliminary review Friday from a camera mounted on the shuttle's robotic arm showed minor dings in some thermal protection tiles, NASA said.

We don't expect any issues. We're not worried about this flight, shuttle program manager John Shannon said.

NASA has taken extra care to analyze break-away foam since the loss of the shuttle Columbia in 2003 from a piece of foam that struck the left wing.

Any damage to the Endeavour would need to be understood before the shuttle Discovery launches Aug. 18 on a supply mission to the Space Station, Shannon said.