NASA extends Space Shuttle Atlantis' mission

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Space Shuttle Atlantis

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Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis is one of the fleet of space shuttles belonging to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was the fourth operational shuttle built. Following the destruction of Columbia, it is one of the three fully operational shuttles remaining in the fleet. The other two are Discovery and Endeavour. After it completes STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope service mission, Atlantis is scheduled to be the first shuttle retired from the fleet.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The tear in the TPS of Atlantis.
Image: NASA.

NASA has extended the Space Shuttle Atlantis mission from 11 days to 13 days to attempt to fix a tear of at least four inches in the shuttle's Thermal Protection System (TPS), which occurred during liftoff on June 8. A fourth spacewalk is also planned to take place.

The tear was discovered when astronauts used the shuttle's robotic arm with digital cameras placed on the end.

NASA says that the tear is not a major concern for re-entry, but they want to fix the problem before Atlantis returns, to reduce the amount of possible repairs Atlantis might need.

"I don't want to take the risk of damaging my flight hardware," said chairman of Atlantis's mission management team, John Shannon. Shannon said that it was unlikely that the tear would result in a disaster similar to that which occurred with the Space Shuttle Columbia which was lost in 2003 during re-entry.

Atlantis will now return to Earth on June 21, rather than the original return date of June 19.

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