Friday, April 13, 2007

UFO Scare Delays Atlantis's Re-Entry

Flying Saucer Aproaching Shuttle
By Times of India

      HOUSTON: An inspection of the US space shuttle Atlantis on Wednesday found no sign of damage but cautious Nasa managers ordered closer scrutiny of the ship's protective heat shield and other critical systems just to be sure.

Nasa managers expressed optimism they could try to land the shuttle in Florida on Thursday. The orbiter's scheduled landing on Wednesday was delayed when a mystery object was seen flying near the spaceship on Tuesday, raising fears that something important might have fallen off.

Atlantis astronauts used a camera on a 15-metre robot arm to scan the shuttle surface for damage and then were told to take a closer look with a longer, sensor-laden boom.

They spotted three new bits of debris outside the ship, but Nasa managers expressed no concern about them. "We didn't see any evidence of any kind of damage," Steve Stich, a Nasa flight director, said of the first inspection.

Wednesday's inspection was the third of the mission and had not been scheduled until the small object was spotted. It alarmed Nasa because of concerns a key component, such as a piece of the heat shield that protects the spacecraft during its fiery descent to Earth, might have broken off.

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