March 17, 2009 in City

NASA says satellite debris not a threat to Discovery

Marcia Dunn Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA gave the all-clear to the International Space Station on Monday, telling its astronauts they would not need to steer away from an orbiting piece of satellite junk.

Experts had been keeping close tabs on the debris all day, at one point believing it might pass within a half-mile of the space station today, just ahead of the shuttle Discovery’s arrival.

But as they studied the path of the debris, engineers ascertained it would remain at a safe distance.

A maneuver by the space station would have forced Discovery to adjust its course for docking late this afternoon.

Mission Control radioed the good news to both space crews early Monday evening.

Meanwhile, on board Discovery, the seven astronauts conducted an in-depth inspection of their ship’s wings and nose with a laser-tipped boom Monday afternoon.

LeRoy Cain, chairman of the mission management team, said it appears, at least initially, as though Discovery made it through the launch “very, very clean.”

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