- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2011

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. (AP) - NASA says the gash in space shuttle Endeavour’s belly poses no safety concern.

Experts on the ground reviewed 3-D images of the launch damage captured Saturday morning by the astronauts. They determined the gouge is too shallow to be of concern, and late Saturday afternoon, mission managers cleared the shuttle for return to Earth on June 1.

Images show the gouge to be 3 inches by 2.4 inches, and less than an inch deep. Several other areas of damage were discovered in Endeavour’s heat shield, but only this one gouge warranted a further look.

Before the six shuttle astronauts went to sleep, they were informed everything was looking positive. The good news was announced a bit later by mission management team leader LeRoy Cain.



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