BREAKING NEWS: Shuttle belly damaged; uncertain how badly

Contributed by
Aug 10, 2007

A small 3-inch gouge on the belly of the Shuttle Endeavour was detected by observers on the International Space Station as the Shuttle passed by for a visual inspection before docking.

It's not clear how serious this is; they will use the new, longer robotic arm to inspect the Shuttle on Sunday. it will use a laser to determine the depth and breadth of the gouge, along with several other suspicious marks. The big one is on the starboard side aft.

At just under a minute into the launch, a piece of debris -- possibly ice from outside the external fuel tank -- was seen striking the Shuttle near this position, and a small spray of debris was detected just after the impact.

The gouge isn't as deep or as wide as others have been in the past where the Shuttle has landed safely, but of course any damage is cause for concern (especially after the 2003 loss of Columbia due to foam falling off the main tank and impacting the leading edge of the Shuttle wing, damaging the structure there).

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