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Atlantis crew wrap heatshield inspection

Shuttle robot arm exits world stage

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The crew of space shuttle Atlantis have wrapped an inspection of the spacecraft's thermal protection system, ahead of the veteran spaceplane's planned return to Kennedy Space Center on Thursday morning.

NASA reports: "They used the 50-foot long Orbiter Boom Sensor System to conduct a high fidelity, three-dimensional scan of areas of the shuttle that experience the highest heating during entry - the wing leading edges and nose cap. Managers and engineers in Mission Control will review the data today and tomorrow to validate the heat shield’s integrity."

Since every shuttle report now has to contain the word "final" at least once, the agency adds: "This marks the final use of the shuttle’s robotic arm, dating back to its inaugural flight on the shuttle Challenger in April 1983 on the STS-7 mission, operated by the first American woman to fly in space, Sally Ride."

Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station earlier today, and here's NASA's video round-up of the departure:

NASA's main space shuttle section is here. ®

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