Atlantis continued to move steadily closer to the Hubble Space Telescope today, and its crew made good use of the time to perform a thorough inspection of the shuttle’s heat shield.
Over the course of the day, five members of the seven-person crew took part in that survey, which lasted more than seven hours. Commander Scott Altman, Pilot Gregory C. Johnson, and Mission Specialists Michael Good, Megan McArthur and Mike Massimino all used the shuttle’s 50-foot orbiter boom sensor system, attached to the shuttle’s 49-foot robotic arm, at one point or another to get an up close look at the surface of the shuttle’s belly and its wing-leading edges and nose cap. The data was sent to the ground, where it will be carefully analyzed to make sure that the shuttle didn’t sustain any serious damage during Monday’s launch.
During that inspection, mission managers noted one area of damage on the forward part of the spacecraft where the wing blends into the fuselage. Initially it appears to be very minor and of no concern for the mission, however the standard expert analysis is underway.