Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Endeavour's Crew Inspects Thermal Tiles

The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour spent early today inspecting the outer protective skin of the orbiter looking for any damage as they fly closer to a docking with the International Space Station.

Using the ship's robotic arm with the Orbital Sensor Boom attached, the crew slowly moved the sensor section with a camera attached over nearly every inch of the thermal protective tiles and blankets. It is these areas which protect the shuttle from the extreme heat of reentry prior to landing.

Any type of small break or gouge in the thermal protection system could cause the area to burn through to the ship's metal hull upon reentry.

Meanwhile, the orbiter continued to close in on her port-of-call today, including a few engine firings to both raise it's orbital altitude and speed of closure.

Docking time is planned for 12:06 am on Wednesday morning.

At 7:20 am EST today, Endeavour was some 850 miles behind the space station, and closing at a rate of 104 miles per orbit.

Endeavour will spend one week docked to the orbital outpost, expanding the living volume as it adds the final American module.

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