NASA decides no shuttle repairs needed

NASA decides no shuttle repairs needed

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER - NASA has decided that astronauts won't fix a gouge in the shuttle Endeavour's belly.

Mission Control told Endeavour's crew right before they went to sleep. After a week of engineering analyses and uncertainty, experts concluded the shuttle is safe to fly home.

The astronauts had spent much of the day running through possible repair methods, just in case they were ordered up. But officials say the gouge is too small to cause catastrophic damage.

They were more concerned that the heat of re-entry could cause damage that would result in lengthy post-flight repairs.

Endeavour's bottom thermal shielding was pierced by a piece of debris that broke off the external fuel tank shortly after liftoff last week.