Cape Kennedy, Florida -- The space shuttle Endeavour is safe to return to earth despite three small defects, according to press reports in the US citing NASA's deputy space shuttle programme manager, LeRoy Cain.
NASA's website reports that the crew of the Endeavour conducted a range of inspections on the shuttle's heat shield last week to check for damage after a small piece of foam was recorded breaking away from the external tank during Endeavour's 8 Feb launch.
The defects, a protruding ceramic ring spacer on the frame of window 2, a crack in a thermal tile on the roof of the shuttle and a small peeling of the left wing seal, are considered to be too small to cause any danger during the planned flight back to Earth.
Cain told reporters late last week that even if the pieces break off, they are too small to cause serious damage to the shuttle and cause problems during re-entry.
According to the reports, NASA will conduct extra checks of the space shuttle Discovery's fuel tank, which is scheduled to launch next month. (RD)
PIC: The space shuttle Endeavour photographed from the International Space Station on 9 Feb 2010."