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Crew of Discovery inspect Shuttle for launch damage

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The crew of the Space shuttle Discovery – which launched successfully yesterday – have begun to make inspections of the exterior of the Orbiter.

They are checking for any damage that may have occurred during take-off – the Columbia was destroyed after a piece of foam falling from the external fuel tank split open a wing, allowing super-heated gas to enter the craft upon reentry, leading to its break-up.

The crew of Discovery are using a laser-scanner mounted on the end of the shuttle's 15 m (49.2 ft) long robotic arm. The inspection will consist of 90 minute sessions, during which a three-dimensional image of the surface of the nosecone and the leading edges of the wings will be built up.

NASA engineers are studying footage taken from a camera mounted on the external fuel tank, which appears to show a 1.5" (3.8 cm) piece of tile falling away from on or near the nose landing-gear doors. There is also footage of an unidentified piece of debris which fell away as the solid rocket boosters were jettisoned, and did not appear to strike the shuttle.

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