Repairs to the damaged heat shield on the space shuttle Endeavor may not be needed before the shuttle's return to Earth, NASA says, based on the first set of tests, completed yesterday. Program managers say they are "cautiously optimistic" that business-card-sized gash in Endeavour's thermal tiles shouldn't pose a threat as the shuttle re-enters the atmosphere. Testing is expected to be finished by later today.
The good news came after a day in which NASA finally realized a long-delayed dream of a teacher talking to students from space. Astronaut Barbara Morgan took questions and chatted with with hundreds of children crowded into a science museum near the school where she was a teacher. NASA would like to avoid a spacewalk to repair the damage because such an operation would be risky both to the astronauts and to the shuttle itself.