Crew Inspects Atlantis, Chases After International Space Station

HOUSTON (AP) — Atlantis’ crew is inspecting the shuttle to see if Thursday’s launch left a mark on the ship’s wings or nose.

There’s no evidence debris hit Atlantis, but astronauts are combing the exterior with a laser-tipped inspection pole to make sure.

The images they gather will be beamed to Earth and thoroughly analyzed over the next few days. The inspection has been standard procedure since a hole in the wing brought down Columbia in 2003.

Friday, Atlantis is chasing the orbiting international space station, carrying Europe’s $2 billion-dollar Columbus lab. On Sunday the crew is expected to begin installing the lab, a project more than 23 years in the making.

Despite being two months late, Thursday’s liftoff keeps NASA on track for six shuttle flights this year.