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NASA:  No Danger to ISS from Space Junk


The U.S. space agency has given the all-clear to the International Space Station crew, telling the astronauts they will not need to steer away from an orbiting piece of junk left by an old Soviet satellite.

NASA made the announcement Monday, saying a "debris avoidance maneuver" will not be required. Experts had been tracking the debris, concerned it would pass too close to the orbiting outpost Tuesday ahead of the space shuttle Discovery's arrival.

Last week, three crew members aboard the International Space Station were briefly evacuated to a Soyuz spaceship when another piece of debris threatened to hit the station. After the debris passed without incident, the astronauts returned to the station. Officials said the move was a precaution and the probability of impact was low.

The seven astronauts aboard Discovery spent Monday inspecting their space craft for damage that may have occurred during liftoff Sunday.

NASA has given extra attention to any damage to the shuttle's heat shield tiles since the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster.

A piece of insulation foam during launch punched a hole in Columbia's wings, allowing hot gases into the craft as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. The shuttle disintegrated, and all seven astronauts on board were killed.

On this latest mission, Discovery is carrying another set of solar panels to the space station and a new water system that converts urine into drinking water.

The Discovery crew includes Japan's Koichi Wakata, who will remain aboard the station. He is to replace American astronaut Sandra Magnus, who is scheduled to return to Earth on the shuttle.

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