Space Shuttle Atlantis has sustained what looks like minor shuttle damage
which spans across 4 to 5 thermal tiles on the right side of the space shuttle. Preliminary reports state that the damage is a result of launch debris that came
from the fuel tank a few minutes after liftoff.
Although the damage does not seem to be serious, more analysis is needed,
Atlantis launched this past Monday with seven astronauts on a mission to
repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission is expected to cost around $1
billion which will install new gyroscopes, batteries, and cameras. But due to
the recent circumstances, NASA has placed the original mission plans on hold as
they investigate whether a rescue mission is needed.
If the Hubble repair mission is to proceed, it will prove to be one of the most
risky ventures ever perform in space. A rescue shuttle is already on standby
because the orbit of the Hubble Telescope is saturated with space debris and the
international space station is in a different orbit then Hubble, making it
impossible to retreat to for emergency purposes.