Atlantis shuttle mission extended

The mission of the Atlantis space shuttle crew has been prolonged by two more days after damage to the ship was spotted. Meanwhile, a software problem has occurred in the station's Russian segment causing a false fire alarm.

After Friday's launch, on the space shuttle Atlantis docked at the ISS, a section of peeled-back thermal blanket was discovered. Engineers are continuing to review photographs to determine whether it could pose a problem when Atlantis returns to Earth next week.

NASA managers have decided that crew members will try to fix the peeled thermal blanket. This means the shuttle's mission will be extended from 11 to 13 days.

“There is a 100 % consensus that the unknowns in the engineering analysis and the potential damage to that graphite epoxy layer under the blanket were not acceptable and we wanted to go and fix it if we at all could. So it was a very easy decision today. We decided to extend by two days,” John Shannon from the Mission management team said.

While astronauts have completed the first of three spacewalks – lasting just over six hours – engineers want to make sure it was not damaged during the launch.

Such a launch doomed the Columbia in 2003 when all seven crewmembers on board were killed.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, a fire alarm went off in the depths of space on the International Space Station (the ISS).

The crew carried out emergency procedures and stopped when they found no smoke or fire in the section where the alarm went off. It was a false alarm. Experts say the problem may have been caused by a software defect.

This is not the first time trouble has arisen in space lately.

Last week, Russian cosmonauts at the ISS discovered an opening in the trimming of the station caused by a micrometeorite. However, it was reported that this would not cause any danger to the ISS.

Meantime, the International Space Station has started using two new panels of solar batteries.

The installation was carried out without any difficulties, and the ISS now has an additional electrical energy source.