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Discovery docks with ISS

Smooth mating

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In brief The space shuttle Discovery has successfully docked with the International Space Station in a trauma-free mating during which ISS cameras captured images of the vehicle's underside for inspection for possible damage to the heat shielding.

Initial reports suggest that there is no major cause for concern following the detachment of two pieces of foam from the shuttle's external fuel tank - one six inches long from the liquid hydrogen intertank flange, and another about 30 inches long from the Protuberance Air Load (Pal) ramp - during the orbiter's 26 July launch. NASA will continue to probe the photos in a search of hitherto unseen impact damage.

Although the fuel tank incident provoked NASA to ground the entire shuttle fleet indefinitely, Nasa administrator Dr Mike Griffin told ABC News that over-dramatisation was unnecessary with regard to Discovery. "Everything that we see at this point says that the orbiter is in fact a clean bird," he assured viewers.

Discovery is due to return to Earth on 7 August. ®

Related link

Up-to-the-minute news on the NASA Return to Flight website.

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