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article imageNASA says damage to Atlantis insulation blanket not an urgent problem

By Carpenter S. Newton     Jun 9, 2007 in Science
Astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis spent their first day in orbit conducting an inspection of the delicate heat shield, finding a small section of damage that NASA does not appear to be concerned with.
Carpenter Newton reporting for Digital Journal –– Using a high powered camera attached to the robotic arm on shuttle Atlantis, the crew of STS-117 spent their first full day in space conducting an inspection of the orbiter’s heat shield after a section of damage was found shortly after launch on Friday.
The hot topic of discussion was a pulled up insulation blanket on one of Atlantis’ Orbital Maneuvering System rocket pods. At tonight’s Mission Status Briefing, John Shannon, chairman of NASA’S Mission Management Team, said, “There’s not a great deal of concern over it [the insulation blanket] right now, but there’s a lot of work to be done and we’ll do that in the coming days.”
Shannon also said preliminary looks at video and imagery both from the ground and Atlantis indicate that nothing abnormal happened to pass NASA’s critical threshold for causing damage to the heat shield.
While the blanket doesn’t appear to be causing concern, it is not without precedent. On the very first shuttle flight ever, STS-1, several tiles were damaged in the same area. The tiles caused no problems for the craft.
“We have a history of damage to these OMS pods. Early in the program, STS-1, we lost some tile material. STS-6, we lost at least one blanket in that area. We do not believe we had any damage at all to the OMS pods,” Shannon said.
Engineers at NASA will be analyzing the problem to make sure there is no threat to Atlantis or the crew. Shannon said astronauts could potentially work on the blanket in question, but that will not be considered until engineers complete damage assessments.
Other Flight Day 2 Activities
The crew of Atlantis awoke just after 10:00 a.m. EDT to a recording of ‘Big Boy Toys,’ a song by country artist Aaron Tippin. The song was played in honor of Commander Sturckow.
In addition to a thorough heat shield inspection, the crew prepared the spacesuits that will be used in three upcoming spacewalks. They also extended the shuttle’s docking ring and inspected tools that will be used in docking with the International Space Station, which is scheduled for 3:38 p.m. Sunday.
Late in the day, the crew downlinked some video footage taken inside the shuttle to mission control in Houston.
There were no deviations from the planned schedule and everything continues to progress normally aboard space shuttle Atlantis.
More about NASA, Sts-117, Atlantis
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