compiled by Dee Finney

7-16-07 - DREAM - I was standing  in my yard one day and I heard something explode in the sky.

I looked up and saw this black smear in the sky and black chunks of metal came falling down from it.  One of the chunks fell and hit an older man in the back.

The man started running in our direction with that look of shock and pain on his face.

I grabbed his arm and pulled him into our yard and said quickly, "Come in and I'll put ice on your back where you got hit and you can wait for the rescue squad here."

The man was wearing a work shirt with his name on the back and his name was 'Hairi ride.'

(Remember Sally Ride connection from the Challenger shuttle?"

I rode in the ambulance with him on the way to the shoptial. It was a fast ride down a heavily wooded narrow road - the type of trees that grow in Eastern woodlands.

Even the ambulance driver was glad to get out from under the overhanging trees when we got to the main highway.

Another dreamer writes:
Date: August 17, 2007 at 19:03:36
From: RIG
Subject: A couple of brief visions from the past week...


1... A city, with people running in panic from white gaseous clouds...

2... A scene as if in orbit around Earth, a string a debris coming at me and going past, large pieces that put me in mind of either the shuttle or the ISS (space station)... could have been something else, dunno!...



Shuttle Launches With Teacher Aboard

Aug 8 06:45 PM US/Eastern
AP Aerospace Writer
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Space shuttle Endeavour blasted off Wednesday carrying teacher- astronaut Barbara Morgan, who after more than two decades is finally carrying out the dream of Christa McAuliffe and the rest of the fallen Challenger crew.

Endeavour and its crew of seven rose from the seaside pad at 6:36 p.m., right on time, and pierced a solidly blue sky. They're expected to reach the international space station in two days.

"Good luck, godspeed and have some fun up there," launch director Michael Leinbach said.

Morgan was McAuliffe's backup for Challenger's doomed launch in 1986 and, even after two space shuttle disasters, never swayed in her dedication to NASA and the agency's on-and-off quest to send a schoolteacher into space. She rocketed away in the center seat of the cabin's lower compartment, the same seat that had been occupied by McAuliffe.

More than half of NASA's 114 Teacher-in-Space nominees in 1985 gathered at the launch site, along with hundreds of other educators, all of them thrilled to see Morgan continue what McAuliffe began.

Also on hand was the widow of Challenger's commander, who said earlier in the day that she would be praying and pacing at liftoff and would not relax until Morgan was safely back on Earth in two weeks.

"The Challenger crew—my husband, Dick Scobee, the teacher Christa McAuliffe—they would be so happy with Barbara Morgan," said June Scobee Rodgers. "It's important that the lessons will be taught because there's a nation of people waiting, still, who remember where they were when we lost the Challenger and they remember a teacher was aboard."

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin met Tuesday night with several members of the Challenger astronaut families in town for the launch—although not the McAuliffe family—and said they did not seem worried.

"They didn't act like they came to see another tragedy," he said. "They're here to celebrate her having a chance to fly."

Griffin knows better than most that NASA could lose another teacher in flight.

"Every time we fly I know that we can lose a crew," he told The Associated Press hours before the launch. "That occupies a large portion of my thoughts. Unless we're going to get out of the manned space flight business, that thought is going to be with me every time we fly."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

By Dave Mosher
Staff Writer
posted: 8 August 2007
10:41 p.m. ET


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The successful launch of NASA's shuttle Endeavour late Wednesday was a textbook example of U.S. spaceflight, the agency's top official said as the orbiter's astronaut crew circled the Earth.  

"The launch operation doesn't get any better than this, it really can't," NASA chief Michael Griffin said of the space shot just before sundown.

A stubborn shuttle hatch, a small crack in external tank insulation and some falling debris during Endeavour's ascent were all minor issues that did not preclude liftoff, mission managers said during a post-launch briefing here at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

The $2.2-billion orbiter carried teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan and the rest of the seven-person STS-118 crew into space at 6:36:42 p.m. (2236:42 GMT) on a construction flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch ended a 22-year wait to reach space for Morgan, who originally served as the backup for New Hampshire high school Christa McAuliffe during NASA's Teacher in Space program in 1985. NASA's 1986 Challenger accident claimed the lives of McAuliffe and six other astronauts.

"It's always good to see a friend on orbit," said NASA launch director Mike Leinbach said of Morgan, now working in zero gravity. "I know she's having a whale of a time right now."

Commanded by veteran shuttle flyer Scott Kelly, the seven astronauts aboard Endeavour will continue construction of the International Space Station (ISS), which is expected have a mass of 1 million pounds (453,592 kilograms) and rival a U.S. football field in length when complete.

Pending investigation

While "class is in session" for the seven astronauts high above the planet, NASA continues its investigation of alleged alcohol abuse among astronauts prior to launch. So far, not a shred of evidence has appeared after sifting through records of the last 10 years, said NASA spokesperson David Mould.

"We surely are not perfect and we know it every day," Griffin said of the negative publicity drawn to the space agency during the past year.

"It's not a really credible set of charges, but … I take it as my responsibility to find out," he added. "When something unpleasant comes up we take it on head-on, we deal with it, and we resolve it."

Griffin said that NASA will divulge any information it digs up through record searching and personnel interviews. The agency's biggest focus, however, is completing the growing ISS before its shuttle program retires in September 2010.

Future focus

The STS-118 crew will play a major role in the completion of the ISS by adding a starboard (S5) truss spacer, delivering fresh cargo and making repairs.

If NASA launches between four and five missions each year, Griffin said, astronauts can finish building the space station before it's too late.

"If we just stay on plan, we will finish easily," Griffin said, noting that the space agency has historically launched as many missions yearly.

If time allows during Endeavour's 11-to-14 mission, Morgan and other astronauts will participate in three educational downlinks with U.S. students. The crew has also carried 10 million basil seeds into space, which the crew will return to earth and deliver to schools across the country as part of an engineering design challenge.

In addition to Morgan and Kelly, pilot Charlie Hobaugh and mission specialists Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Alvin Drew, Jr. and Canadian astronaut Dave Williams launched into space aboard Endeavour. Mission planners expect the shuttle to dock at the ISS Friday at 1:53 p.m. EDT (1753 GMT).

NASA is broadcasting Endeavour's STS-118 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updates and's NASA TV feed.


Khaleej Times Online >> News >> THE WORLD
Endeavour mission hit by shuttle damage

11 August 2007

WASHINGTON - NASA detected an apparent gouge on shuttle Endeavour’s heat shield during a routine inspection Friday, after the orbiter docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

A piece of ice struck the shuttle shortly after Wednesday’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, leaving what appears to be a three square inch (19 square centimeter) gouge near the hatch of one of the shuttle’s landing gears, mission manager John Shannon said.

Small white marks were also visible on other thermal tiles surrounding the gouged area, he told a news conference.

He said NASA was trying to determine the extent of the apparent damage, adding: “What this means, I don’t know at this point.”

The possible damage was detected Friday after ISS crew members took 296 pictures of the shuttle’s underside while it performed a backflip during its approach to the station. The pictures were analyzed by NASA experts on Earth.

Astronauts on Sunday will use a camera attached to a robotic arm to closely inspect the area of concern, and a laser to determine exactly the depth of the gouge, Shannon said.

If repairs are deemed necessary, he added, the Endeavour mission would be extended by an additional space walk. He said that materials to patch up the thermal shield were available to the astronauts.

The ice presumably was formed by Florida’s humid air coming in contact with the fuel tank’s cold surface — it holds supercold liquid hydrogen fuel, something the insulation layer is supposed to prevent.

The US space agency has carefully inspected the orbiter’s protective thermal tiles in the missions that followed the shuttle Columbia disaster of February 2003.

Columbia’s heat shield was pierced by a piece of insulating foam that peeled off its external fuel tank during liftoff, causing the shuttle to disintegrate into a ball of fire as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. Seven astronauts died.

Endeavour brought to the ISS the first teacher in space and a new truss segment to expand the orbiting laboratory, which NASA considers a key part of its space exploration mission.

Endeavour’s seven astronauts floated inside the station to a warm welcome by the three ISS crew members, with hugs and hand shakes, NASA television images showed.

On Saturday, they will operate a robotic arm to attach the new segment to the ISS and conduct the mission’s first space walk.

The Endeavour crew includes 55-year-old Barbara Morgan, the first teacher in space 21 years after the Challenger explosion in 1986 killed fellow educator Christa McAuliffe and six astronauts.

Three space walks are scheduled during the mission, which includes replacing a defective gyroscope on the ISS and installing an external stowage platform. The 11-day mission may be extended to 14 days with a fourth space walk.

Morgan will operate robotic arms on the ISS and the shuttle to unload and install new equipment and supplies on the space station.

“When we first came to orbit it took a little getting used to,”  she said in a video transmission from Endeavour. “I felt like I was upside down the whole time.”

She joked about the weightlessness that makes items casually drift out of sight after being put aside.

“We’ll have to do a treasure hunt later

Shuttle Crew Focusing on Heat Shield

Posted: 2007-08-12 13:18:17
HOUSTON (Aug. 12) - Astronauts worked Sunday to give NASA  a closer look at a troubling gouge on the Endeavour 's protective heat shield to help determine whether they need to repair the 3-inch wound on the space shuttle's belly.

The white gouge, bottom left, appears along with scrapes against the
black tiles of the craft's belly. If NASA decides to repair the gouge,
the work probably would be done in a spacewalk next Friday

The gouge - about 3 inches square - was spotted in zoom-in photography taken by the space station crew just before Endeavour docked there.The gouge is several feet from the starboard landing gear door. It appears to be the result of ice, but NASA said it could also have been damaged by foam insulation falling off the external fuel tank during liftoff Wednesday.NASA expects to determine on Sunday whether repairs are needed.

In 2005, astronaut Steve Robinson went outside Discovery to make
 repairs. It was the first time for such a venture.

Astronaut Charles Hobaugh used the international station's robotic arm to pull a 50-foot laser-tipped boom from Endeavour's cargo bay and hand it off to the shuttle's robotic arm.

Then teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan and crewmate Tracy Caldwell gingerly maneuvered the shuttle's robotic arm to scan the damage in the difficult-to-reach belly area. The laser will send three-dimensional images of the gash to engineers on the ground so they can determine how deep the gouge is and whether repairs are needed.

The space agency planned to spend several hours on the detailed inspection of the 3 1/2-by-2-inch gash. It was caused by a piece of foam that came off the shuttle's external fuel tank during liftoff last week, striking tiles that insulate the ship from the intense heat of re-entry to Earth, NASA said.

The space agency won't know how serious the ding is or whether astronauts need to repair the damage during a spacewalk until it's examined.

Adding repair tasks to a spacewalk is less likely now that managers know the gash was not caused by heavier and potentially more damaging ice like they initially suspected. They learned this after examining video from cameras retrieved from Endeavour's booster rockets, which were towed back from the Atlantic.

A grapefruit-sized piece of foam appears to have come off a bracket on the fuel tank, then bounced off a strut farther down and shot into Endeavour, said John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team. The brackets hold the long fuel feed line to the tank, and the struts connect the tank to the shuttle for launch. Ice tends to form near these brackets and cause the foam to pop off at liftoff.

Foam has come loose from the brackets on previous flights, Shannon said, and NASA is looking at how to redesign the apparatus to mitigate this problem.

"It's a little bit of a concern to us because this seems to be something that has happened frequently," Shannon said.

Directly beneath the damage is part of the aluminum framework of the starboard wing, which would provide additional protection during re-entry, Shannon said. He called that a lucky break.

Almost every mission in the 26 years of shuttle flight has ended with gouges of at least an inch in the thermal tiles that cover the belly. In one flight, nearly 300 dings that big were recorded.

The ship's belly is exposed to temperatures as high as 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit while passing through the Earth's atmosphere. Shuttle wings encounter even more heat, which is why the briefcase-sized foam that hit Columbia's left wing at liftoff was fatally damaging when left not repaired.

Since that disaster, NASA has equipped crews with tile repair kits. Depending on the extent of the damage, astronauts can slap on protective paint, screw on a shielding panel, or squirt in filler goo.

If Endeavour had to make an emergency landing right now, NASA still would take the chance based on all the risks, Shannon said.

The astronauts were woken up overnight by an alarm on a fuel cell that generates power for the shuttle. NASA said the alarm sounded because the fuel cell was able to cool down more than usual now that the shuttle is using a new system to draw power from the space station. Settings on the fuel cell's monitoring system were being changed to prevent the alarm from sounding again, officials said.

Astronauts completed the mission's first spacewalk on Saturday, installing a new addition to the orbiting outpost. At least two more spacewalks are planned.

Midway through the six-hour spacewalk, NASA's main command-and-control computer aboard the space station mysteriously shut down and a backup automatically kicked in. The problem was resolved on Sunday.

NASA hopes to keep Endeavour at the space station for at least seven days and quite possibly a record 10 days as a result of the new system for drawing power from the station. Mission managers are expected to approve the extra docked days on Sunday.

AP Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn contributed to this report from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
2007-08-10 19:08:35



The Associated Press


An astronaut's ripped glove forced an early end to a spacewalk Wednesday as NASA put off a decision on whether to order risky spacewalk repairs for a gouge on shuttle Endeavour's belly.

After nearly a week of agonizing over the gouge, NASA indicated that it was close to wrapping up tests and would decide today whether repairs were needed.

Endeavour's commander, Scott Kelly, asked Mission Control which way managers were leaning. The reply: "Unfortunately, we have no idea which way the wind is blowing at the moment."

One of the astronauts who would attempt those repairs. Rick Mastracchio, had to cut his latest spacewalk short after he noticed a hole in his left glove.

The rip in the thumb penetrated only the two outer layers of the five-layer glove, and he was never in danger, Mission Control said. Nevertheless, he was ordered back inside early.

The unprecedented patching job on Endeavour, if approved, would be performed on the next pacewalk, now set for Saturday, a day later than planned to give engineers more time to analyze the situation. That could keep Endeavour and its crew of seven at the space station at least an extra day.

Preliminary results indicated no need for fixing the gouge, but mission managers were withholding jugement until the completion of heat-blasting tests on the ground.

The 3 1/2 inch long, 2 inch wide gouge - the result of a debris strike at liftoff - is in two of the thousands of black tiles that cover. Endeavour's belly and guard against the 2,000 plus degree temperatures of atmospheric re-entry. Part of the gouge, a narrow one-inch strip, cuts all the way through the tiles, exposing the thin felt fabric that serves as the final barrier to the ship's aluminum frame.

The exposed area and the gouge itself are so small that NASA is not worried about a Columbia-type catastrophe.

Rather, the concern is that if too much heat enters the crevice, the underlying aluminum structure might be damaged enough to warrant lengthy repairs.


Shuttle Crew May Face Risky Repair Work

Posted: 2007-08-13 11:51:35
Filed Under: Nation News, Science News
HOUSTON (Aug. 13) - Two astronauts began a spacewalk Monday to replace equipment on the international space station as NASA  worked feverishly to decide whether the shuttle Endeavour 's crew would need to repair a gouge on the ship's belly later this week.

A chunk of insulating foam smacked the shuttle during liftoff last week, creating a 3 1/2-inch-long gouge that penetrates all the way through the thermal shielding on the ship's underside.

Teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan and other crew members spent much of Sunday using a laser boom attached to the shuttle's robot arm to create 3-D images of the gash and a few other damaged areas that NASA officials say pose no threat.

Mission managers expect to decide Monday, or Tuesday at the latest, whether to send astronauts out to patch the gouge. Engineers are trying to determine whether the marred area can withstand the searing heat of atmospheric re-entry at flight's end. Actual heating tests will be conducted on similarly damaged samples.

The space shuttle Columbia was destroyed in 2003 when hot atmospheric gases seeped into a hole in its wing and melted the wing from the inside out. A foam strike at liftoff caused the gash.
"We have really prepared for exactly this case, since Columbia," said John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team. "We have spent a lot of money in the program and a lot of time and a lot of people's efforts to be ready to handle exactly this case."

Meanwhile, work in orbit went on as usual on Monday. Astronauts Dave Williams and Rick Mastracchio began the mission's second spacewalk, floating out of the space station hatch to replace one of the four gyroscopes that help control the orbiting outpost's orientation.

The astronauts will replace the broken gyroscope with equipment they brought aboard Endeavour. The gyroscope that broke in October will be stored at the station so it can be brought back to Earth during a later mission.

Astronauts plan to conduct two more spacewalks on Wednesday and Friday, and they could add the gouge repairs to their to-do list. Depending on the extent of the damage, astronauts can apply protective paint, screw on a shielding panel, or squirt in filler goo.

The damaged thermal tiles are located near the right main landing gear door. In a stroke of luck, they're right beneath the aluminum framework for the right wing, which would offer extra protection during the ride back to Earth.

The foam came off a bracket on the external fuel tank 58 seconds after Wednesday's launch. It fell down onto a strut on the tank, then bounced up, right into Endeavour's belly. Ice apparently formed before liftoff near the bracket, which helps hold the long fuel feed line to the tank, and caused the foam to pop off when subjected to the vibrations of launch.

It's possible some ice was attached to the foam, which would have made the impact even harder. The debris that came off is believed to have been grapefruit-sized.

These brackets have lost foam in previous launches, a concern for NASA, Shannon said. A switch to titanium brackets, eliminating foam, will not occur before next year.

Shannon said he did not know whether the recurring foam problem would delay the next shuttle flight, currently scheduled for October.

Endeavour has been docked at the space station since Friday. It will remain there until Aug. 20 for a record 10-day stay. Mission managers on Sunday approved the prolonged visit based on the successful testing of a new power transfer system flying on Endeavour. The system is drawing power from the station and converting it for use aboard the shuttle.

The two Russian cosmonauts aboard the space station lost radio communication with the Moscow mission control center overnight when a line apparently was damaged by a nearby construction project, station flight director Heather Rarick said.

The cosmonauts will be able to use American radios, and the outage is not expected to affect Monday's work.

Brief communications issues also delayed the Endeavour crew's wake-up call by about 10 minutes. The crew awoke Monday to the funky strains of Billy Preston 's "Outta Space."

"There's nothing like a good old school 1970s jam to get you up in the morning," astronaut Alvin Drew said.

AP Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn contributed to this report from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.


Risky shuttle fix unneeded, NASA finally decides

HOUSTON - Space shuttle Endeavour will return to Earth "as is," NASA decided Thursday night.

After a five-hour meeting that capped nearly a week's worth of analysis and anxiety, mission managers informed the crew that "no . . . repair is going to be required" on the 3 1/2-inch gouge in the shuttle's belly.

The seven astronauts stayed up past their bedtime awaiting word from Mission Control, which told the crew, "It's great we finally have a decision and we can press forward."

NASA officials said a spacewalk to patch the hole isn't worth the risk because Endeavour and its crew are in no danger of suffering the same fate as Columbia, which broke apart during re-entry.

"If we had a condition I thought was a threat to crew safety, I would go execute this [spacewalk]," said John Shannon, chairman of the mission-management team.

When Shannon polled the more than 30 NASA facilities and departments involved in the decision, the vote was unanimous: The damage is no threat to the crew.

"There was no way I could justify sending the crew out on [a spacewalk] just because," Shannon said.

Only one of the decision makers -- the Johnson Space Center Engineering group -- thought it would be "prudent" to put some thermal goo in the gouge to reduce the risk of damage that would require costly post-flight repairs, Shannon said. The rest decided the potential benefits don't outweigh the risks involved in attempting an unprecedented, tricky repair.

Shuttle managers had been studying the hole in Endeavour's belly since it was spotted Friday before the shuttle docked at the international space station. A piece of debris a little smaller than a baseball flew off a bracket on the external fuel tank 58 seconds after launch. It ricocheted into Endeavour's heat shield off a strut connecting the shuttle to the tank.

The debris pierced two adjacent 1.12-inch-thick ceramic tiles, exposing a sliver of the thermal feltlike material below.

In one test, engineers carved a replica of the gash into tiles blasted with superheated gases at hypersonic speeds to simulate the heat the shuttle experiences on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

The result: The gouge in the tile grew roughly twice as long, but the heat did not burn through the feltlike material below the tiles to expose the aluminum frame. Though engineers expect the aluminum's temperature to rise, tests showed it would maintain its integrity. One final thermal test backed up the results from computer models indicating Endeavour would suffer no serious structural damage during re-entry.

It was clear managers did not want to risk the repair job unless it was absolutely necessary to protect the orbiter.

Spacewalks are the most dangerous activity astronauts do, Shannon said earlier this week. The small hole discovered in the outer layers of astronaut Rick Mastracchio's glove during Wednesday's walk underscored the potential for something to go wrong. The cause of that hole has not been determined.

This spacewalk would have given NASA even more to worry about than usual.

Two astronauts would have to ride on the end of the shuttle's 50-foot robotic arm and its 50-foot boom extension under the spacecraft -- a feat NASA has never attempted.

Last year, two astronauts on Discovery were hoisted on the end of the shuttle's robotic arm and boom extension in a test to see how the 100-foot length would support two astronauts. They mimicked tile-repair movements but did not go below the shuttle.

In 2005, an astronaut was sent under Discovery on the end of the space station's 50-foot robotic arm to pull two small pieces of ceramic fabric sticking out from between tiles under the shuttle's nose. It was the first time an astronaut spacewalked under the shuttle, where communication becomes a concern.

At the spot where the gouge is -- under the wing -- mission managers likely would not have live video from the astronaut's helmet because the wireless system depends on line of sight.

Another potential problem: Spacewalkers under the shuttle would have to get close enough to do the work but keep their 300-pound spacesuits and tethered tools from banging other tiles and potentially causing more damage. Managers also worried filling the divot with the thermal goo could change the shape of the hole in a way that had not been analyzed and possibly create a new heating problem on re-entry.

With the decision on the gouge out of the way, today mission managers move on to a new potential problem: Hurricane Dean. If it stays on its current track, Dean could enter the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday -- Endeavour's landing day.

Johnson Space Center will begin discussing potential emergency preparations, and flight-control teams will start talking about their contingency plans if Dean becomes an issue.

Christopher Sherman can be reached at or 407-650-6361.
Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel


Space walk by shuttle astronauts shortened due to Hurricane Dean

As a result, Saturday's spacewalk will last no longer than four and a half hours to allow for leeway in the landing schedule.

Hurricane Dean is currently in the Caribbean Sea and is expected to make landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday, the same day Endeavour was initially scheduled to complete its 14-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Should the storm hit the Texas coast, the space center would be unable to continue operating, and flight controllers would have to be evacuated to the Kennedy Space Center.

"We'd really like to protect an option to end the mission on Tuesday," said NASA mission management chair LeRoy Cain late Friday.

The curtailed spacewalk may be the least of NASA's worries concerning STS-118.

A gash in Endeavour's protective heat tiles, caused when a piece of insulating foam broke loose on takeoff, set off a scramble at mission control to determine whether in-flight repairs would be needed or whether the shuttle could survive the heat of re-entry as is.

A similar gash in the heat tiles on Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 allowed super-heated gases to enter the wing on re-entry, and the vehicle disintegrated over Texas, killing its seven-member crew.

If flight control decides to end the mission early, the shuttle would have to undock from the ISS Sunday for a Tuesday landing.

Shuttle Lands Safely Despite Gouge in Heat-Shield Tiles

Damage-Analysis System Worked

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 22, 2007;
The space shuttle Endeavour landed safely yesterday after a mission that successfully tested many of the safety modifications put into place after the Columbia disaster four years ago.

Endeavour landed with a gouge in two heat-shield tiles that NASA officials identified, examined, modeled and then decided not to repair while the shuttle was orbiting. The damage was caused by a piece of icy foam that came off the spacecraft as it launched two weeks ago.

After examining the 3 1/2 -inch gouge on the shuttle's underbelly as it rested at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin said he and other agency personnel found little additional damage from the searing heat of reentry into the atmosphere.

"It was darn near pristine," Griffin said in a post-mission briefing. "After a quick look, I'd be hard-put to know it went through a reentry."

Some of the tiles will be removed, however, to see if there is any damage to the underlying aluminum body of the shuttle. Griffin said that while he was relieved to see Endeavour land without incident, he had no doubt that the spacecraft would safely return to Earth from the international space station.

Asked whether NASA expected to have future problems with foam insulation breaking off the external fuel tanks during launches, space operations chief William H. Gerstenmaier said he anticipated that "we will continue to lose foam until the last shuttle flight flies."

The shuttles are needed to carry large components to complete construction of the space station, a job that will require 14 more missions before the orbiters are retired at the end of 2010.

NASA leaders were ebullient yesterday not only because of Endeavour's safe return, but also because their system for analyzing damage to the spaceship had worked.

Cameras installed after the Columbia disaster photographed the foam as it hit the shuttle, a robotic arm on the space station allowed the crew to inspect and photograph the gouge in great detail, and a new laser camera took three-dimensional images that NASA engineers used to replicate the damaged tile. Using wind-tunnel and high-intensity heat tests of the re-created tile, NASA officials concluded that Endeavour could return safely without a repair in space.

The shuttle came back one day early to avoid possible problems associated with Hurricane Dean in case it veered toward mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Gerstenmaier called the 13-day mission "tremendously important" in terms of what NASA has learned about how to respond to, and overcome, problems in flight.

He and Griffin said that the decision not to repair the gouge in orbit was significant because the agency was capable of making the repair but decided that doing so would introduce more risk than leaving it alone. They said that the shuttle has proved to be dependable despite its deficiencies and that NASA will not rush to make any structural changes because of the gouge.

"Every flight has some interesting question that has to be resolved," Griffin said. "I expect that to continue. People have to remember that this is an experimental vehicle.

"We appreciate all the attention on the ding on the tile, but actually the orbiter came back pretty clean," he said. "I would like to see attention on what a magnificent accomplishment we are undertaking."

The shuttle landed

at Kennedy Space Center at 12:32 p.m. Eastern time. Within 30 minutes, six of the seven astronauts climbed out and inspected the ship, but Barbara Morgan -- who was wobbly after her stay in the weightlessness of space -- remained inside NASA's astronaut transporter. She had been the designated backup to teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe for the 1986 Challenger flight, which exploded during launch, killing all seven crew members.

At a news conference with other crew members later in the afternoon, Morgan said that "the room still spins." For the first day in space, she said, she constantly felt as though she were upside down. "It's unusual when you want to turn right-side up but can't," she said.

Crew commander Scott Kelly, asked about seeing the gouge in the heat shielding after the shuttle landed, said he was "a bit underwhelmed." He said he had not been particularly concerned about it during the flight.

"We learn and we make corrections based on what we learn," he said.

During their stay at the space station, crew members made three spacewalks to install several pieces of equipment and to replace a failed gyroscope. The next shuttle is scheduled to launch in October, and the recently refurbished Endeavour is set to fly to the space station again in February.