| GEO World|
| NASA downplays shuttle damage, eyes Hubble rendezvous|
| Updated at: 0907 PST, Wednesday, May 13, 2009|
HOUSTON: NASA was assessing damage found Tuesday on the underside of the shuttle Atlantis, but downplayed any threat to the astronauts or their mission as the craft raced toward a risky high-orbit rendezvous with the Hubble telescope.
During a marathon 10-hour survey of fragile heat shielding, the seven member Atlantis crew found a string of gouges stretching 53 centimeters (21 inches) across four heatshield tiles on the underside of the forward portion of the shuttle's right wing sustained during the craft's launch into orbit.
The US space agency characterized the damage, which will undergo at least two days of evaluation by imagery experts in Mission Control, as minor.