Shuttle inspection finds no damage
The space shuttle Endeavour showed no damage to its heat shield during an inspection by astronauts Wednesday and is still on track to return to Earth Friday.
The images collected during the inspection will require about 20 hours of analysis in total, said flight director Tony Ceccacci, but as of Wednesday afternoon, they had not revealed any serious problems.
The shuttle's crew, including Canadian Julie Payette, were scheduled to sleep at 6 p.m. ET and wake up eight hours later to start their final day in orbit Thursday, NASA reported Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.
As with an earlier inspection, Montreal-born Payette operated a 30-metre-long laser-tipped boom to inspect the heat shield for damage.
Both the laser and boom were made with technology developed in Canada: Ottawa technology firm Neptec designed and built the 3-D laser camera, while the space robotics division of Canadarm-maker MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates made the boom the sensor sits atop.
Endeavour's thermal protection system had already been cleared for landing based on an earlier review, but NASA wanted to do one more check to ensure the shuttle's wings and nose were not damaged during the shuttle's time connected to the International Space Station.
The shuttle undocked from the space station on Tuesday, completing an 11-day stay during which Endeavour's crew delivered and installed a porch-like structure used to conduct experiments exposed to the harsh conditions of outer space — the third major component to Japan's Kibo laboratory.
Endeavour is scheduled to return Friday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The station took in another visitor on Wednesday, as an unmanned Russian cargo vessel carrying several tonnes of supplies docked. Cmdr. Gennady Padalka manually guided the craft in after a problem with the cargo vessel's automatic system.
With files from The Associated Press