Space Shuttle Endeavour to return to Earth on Tuesday

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

High-resolution image showing the damage to the tiles.

Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to touchdown at 12:32 p.m. EDT today in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Rockets were fired to slow down the shuttle at 11:25 a.m. EDT to begin the re-entry procedure.

Weather conditions at the Kennedy Space Center are not forecast to be a problem, and the landing will take place as planned given a favorable crosswind.

A second landing in Florida is possible at the Kennedy Space Center at 2:06 p.m. Also, NASA says that usual back-up landing sites at Edwards Air Force Base in California and White Sands in New Mexico are not expected to be used.

Commander Scott Kelly was given the go-ahead for re-entry preparations after evaluation of the shuttle's wings and nose was completed, indicating no damage from space debris. The three-inch (7.6 cm) gash in the shuttle's belly reported earlier is likely not a safety risk, and should not lead to damage that requires any lengthy repair, NASA said.

The shuttle will pass above Hurricane Dean on the approach to Florida, but the shuttle will be too high to be affected. The threat of Dean heading toward Texas earlier last week prompted NASA to cut the mission a few days short in the case that Dean tracked north toward Houston's Mission Control Center, potentially disabling operations.