Space shuttle Discovery appears to have escaped serious damage from the large chunk of foam that broke off its external fuel tank and is scheduled to return home in about nine days. Astronauts on shuttle Discovery were set to make another inspection of Discovery's wings and belly on Friday for possible damage from flying debris that struck the spacecraft shortly after launch.
NASA officials said they think the shuttle is in good shape and not in danger of a Columbia-like disaster, but has a few nicks they want to study further.
The astronauts will use a laser-equipped robot arm and television cameras to scan the spacecraft as they did earlier in the mission.
Videos showed loose insulation foam from Discovery's external fuel tank appearing to strike the orbiter wing, but the U.S. space agency said it has found no significant damage, Reuters reports.
Thursday's first order of business for commander Eileen Collins and her crew was docking with the international space station, which Collins did after putting Discovery through a graceful and unprecedented back flip 600 feet below the outpost, according to Houston Chronicle.
During the next week Discovery will deliver critical supplies to the space station and replace a faulty gyroscope, which helps the station remain in orbit.
Also on Friday, the astronauts were scheduled to give several press interviews in what will be their first extensive public statements of the mission.
Discovery's flight, which came after 2 1/2 years of work and $1 billion in safety expenditures, is the first since Colombia and may be the last for a while after NASA on Wednesday announced it would not fly again until the foam problem is fixed.
Officials said they do not know when that will be. Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to fly in September, but that mission appears in doubt now, Reuters informs.
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