This image made available Friday by NASA shows a white gouge and scrapes against the black tiles on the underside of space shuttle Endeavour.
U-oh, the space shuttle is in trouble – again. They found a hole on Endeavour’s belly and it could not be patched with Band Aid.
In this image from NASA TV the shuttle Endeavour flies with its underside toward the international space station so digital photos cold be made to determine if the shuttle sustained any damage on launch.
NASA discovered the worrisome gouge or hole after the shuttle docked with the international space station on Friday, possibly caused by ice that broke off the fuel tank a minute after liftoff.
The gouge — about 3 inches square — was spotted in zoom-in photography taken by the space station crew shortly before Endeavour delivered teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan and her six crewmates to the orbiting outpost.
John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team, said if the hole is deep enough, the shuttle astronauts may have to patch it during a spacewalk, he said. Heavy-duty epoxy, perhaps?
The gouge — white against the black tiles on the underside of Endeavour — is several feet from the starboard main landing gear door.
Shannon said it is uncertain how big the debris was. A 1.67-pound chunk of foam led to Columbia’s catastrophic re-entry in 2003.
Mission Control quickly notified the seven shuttle astronauts, including Morgan, of the damage.
Commander Scott Kelly was at the controls when Endeavour performed the orbital backflip earlier in the day so the space station crew could photograph the belly and check for any damage.
While still 625 feet out, Kelly steered Endeavour through a complete somersault so the three space station residents could photograph the shuttle’s belly.
Space station astronaut Clay Anderson videotaped the backflip, while his two Russian crewmates snapped furiously away on digital cameras equipped with high-powered zoom lenses.
Shortly afterward, Endeavour pulled up to the space station and neatly parked as the two spacecraft soared above the South Pacific. The shuttle will remain at the outpost for at least a week.
Morgan’s entrance into the space station was dramatic, to say the least.
Her shuttle crewmates, all but one of whom floated in ahead of her, resembled paparazzi as they photographed her coming through the hatch. The station residents also captured the moment with cameras. She paused, as the flashes popped, a video camera running in her right hand and sunglasses pushed up on her forehead.
Morgan — who was Christa McAuliffe’s backup for Challenger’s tragic mission in 1986 — briefly set aside her camera to hug the three space station residents, then took more video of the crowded outpost. She plans to use the video for educational events after the mission.
Let’s hope and pray Morgan and her fellow shuttle astronauts will be able to patch the hole on their space vehicle and return home safe.