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NASA not too worried about shuttle wing ding…

It looks like the space shuttle ATLANTIS was hit by some debris as it thundered up into orbit on Monday. An inspection with cameras mounted on the end of the robot arm yesterday revealed some damage to the thermal tiles along the front edge of the starboard wing…

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However, detailed study of the images by NASA experts has suggested that the damage is quite superficial – the “scars” are quite shallow, and the tiles themselves are very thick and sturdy – and poses no threat to the orbiter during re-entry. And as NASA has gone so far as to say that there’s no need for an even more detailed inspection I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t causing and sleepless nights over there.

Today is the Big Day for the Atlantis crew. Well, the first Big Day! Today’s the day they rendezvous and dock with the Hubble Space Telescope and gently secure it in the shuttle’s payload bay in preparation for doing their Kwik Fit job on it during 5 complicated and risky spacewalks. In a few hours (hopefully before I have to go to work) we will see Hubble emerge from the darkness above the shuttle. A lot of people will be interested to see what sort of state it’s in – will it look all shiny and shipshape, or will it have been hit and damaged by impacts with space debris since it was last seen years ago?

We’ll know in a few hours. Come back here for pics, and don’t forget you can follow the mission live on NASA TV and it’s all over Twitter too.

T minus 1 day for Herschel and Planck…

herschel_planck_L,0

Tomorrow is the Big Day for ESA scientists involved in the Herschel and Planck missions – launch day! I can’t even begin to imagine how nervous they’re feeling… imagine knowing that the next 10 years of your career are sitting on top of a huge firework, and in 24 hours someone’s going to light the fuse and (hopefully!) send it swooshing up into orbit… eek!

If you want to follow the missions there are obviously countless gazillions of official websites to go to, but can I suggest you go to a couple of unofficial blogs too? I just found a great personal blog being written by some of the Planck team…

http://planckmission.wordpress.com

… and there’s a Herschel blog too…

http://herschelmission.wordpress.com

It’s SO good to see ESA and ESA scientists embracing the new media like this! If you’re interested in the mission, go visit the blogs and maybe even congratulate them – and wish them luck. 🙂