Endeavour docks with international space station; gouge found on shuttle's belly?
NASA discovered a worrisome gouge on Endeavour's belly soon after the shuttle docked with the international space station Friday, possibly caused by ice that broke off the fuel tank a minute after liftoff.
The gouge -about 3 inches square (19 square centimeters) -was spotted in zoom-in photography taken by the space station crew shortly before the linkup.
"What does this mean? I don't know at this point," said John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team. If the gouge is deep enough, the shuttle astronauts may have to patch it during a spacewalk, he said.
On Sunday, the astronauts will inspect the area, using the 100-foot (30-meter) robot arm and extension beam. Lasers on the end of the beam will gauge the exact size and depth of the gouge, Shannon said, and then engineering analyses will determine whether the damage is severe enough to warrant repairs.