Astronauts aboard Endeavour began inspecting the shuttle's heat shield
for possible damage after Wednesday's launch. Officials spotted some debris falling off during
Astronauts began their first full day in space by
inspecting the heat shield to ensure the shuttle is safe to return to
Earth in two weeks. The seven-member crew controlled a robotic arm
equipped with cameras and lasers to scan the surface of the heat shield.
In Houston, NASA commentator Kylie Clem said officials in Houston monitored the seven-hour procedure.
data is going to be downlinked to the ground and pored over by imagery
analysts looking for any signs that the heat shield incurred any damage
during the launch," he said.
The survey has become routine for
shuttle flights, since the Columbia disaster in 2003. Foam insulation
damaged the shuttle's heat tiles during launch, which led to Columbia
breaking apart upon re-entry.
NASA officials say cameras mounted
on Endeavour showed several pieces of debris falling away and hitting
the shuttle during launch late Wednesday. They said initial evidence
suggested there was no serious damage to the shuttle.
Astronauts will conduct additional surveys on Friday, when the shuttle docks with the International Space Station.
Endeavour is carrying the third and final segment of a Japanese science
laboratory to install at the space station. The module called Kibo - or
"Hope" in Japanese - will allow astronauts to conduct experiments that
involve exposing materials to the vacuum of space.