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NASA: Atlantis Crew Inspecting Shuttle For Damage

Crew members also are checking tools they'll use during the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, as well as the Extravehicular Mobility Units they'll use during five spacewalks.

Astronauts aboard the shuttle Atlantis have found minor damage to the shuttle's heat shield and are continuing to inspect the spacecraft.

Crew members are trying to assess potential damage to the shuttle's thermal protection system that occurred during takeoff, NASA said Tuesday.

The inspection is routine and astronauts check for damage on every shuttle mission, NASA said. Astronauts are checking the heat shield, including the nose and wing. They obtain the information using a robotic arm and an Orbiter Boom Sensor System, which will scan the spacecraft. The data the astronauts obtain will be sent to image experts in Mission Control in Houston for analysis.

Crew members also are checking tools they'll use during the mission, as well as the Extravehicular Mobility Units they'll use during five spacewalks scheduled for the STS-125 mission. Each spacewalk is expected to last between six and seven hours.

Atlantis and its seven crew members are headed toward the Hubble Space Telescope to repair some equipment and service other equipment so the telescope will work through at least 2014.

They launched Monday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida Monday for the 11-day trip. Cmdr. Scott Altman is leading the mission, which is Atlantis' last trip to service the Hubble. It is the 30th mission for the shuttle Atlantis. Retired Navy Capt. Gregory C. Johnson is pilot the spacecraft. Other crew members include NASA veterans John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino. Andrew Feustel, Michael Good, and Megan McArthur are aboard on their first voyages into space.

The Hubble launched 19 years ago.

Since the Hubble does not contain provisional supplies for the astronauts, the shuttle Endeavour is on standby in case of emergency.

InformationWeek will be highlighting innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more, and nominate your organization -- deadline extended to May 15.

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