NASA: Atlantis cleared for re-entry

February 12, 2008 9:52:00 AM PST
Good news for the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis.

NASA says the crew won't have to repair a thermal blanket near the shuttle's tail that has a torn corner. Engineers are confident the blanket will be able to stand up to the intense heat of re-entry.

The news comes as the crew at the international space station works to get a new science lab up and running. The European-built Columbus was installed yesterday after being delivered by Atlantis.

Astronauts have hooked up power, fluid and data lines and one of them entered the lab for the first time, saying it appears to be in good shape.

A formal grand opening ceremony for the two-billion-dollar lab is scheduled for this afternoon.

More work on the lab's exterior will be performed during spacewalks tomorrow and on Friday. A German astronaut, who fell ill before he was supposed to help Columbus get installed, is expected to make tomorrow's walk unless flight surgeons object.

Officials aren't disclosing the astronaut's illness.