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Archive for Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Space shuttle heads to space station

March 12, 2008

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— Endeavour's astronauts examined their rocket ship for launch damage Tuesday as they pursued the international space station to deliver a giant robot and part of a Japanese lab.

Specialists on the ground, meanwhile, scrutinized launch images of a possible impact to Endeavour's nose.

In a rare middle-of-the-night launch, the shuttle blasted off with an almost blinding flash. But the darkness meant fewer pictures than usual to look for signs of possible damage to the spacecraft during the climb to orbit.

NASA knew the nighttime launch would come at a photographic cost. But past successes at preventing the shuttle's fuel tank from losing big chunks of foam insulation during liftoff and the accuracy of heat shield inspections convinced managers the night launch was a good choice.

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