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Astronauts scan Atlantis for any damage as it heads to ISS

The shuttle, launched on Tuesday from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Tuesday, is scheduled to dock at the ISS on Wednesday. Image credit: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL (AP/PTI): Space shuttle Atlantis' astronauts have scoured their ship for any signs of launch damage while pursuing the International Space Station.

Atlantis and its crew of six will hook up with the space station on Wednesday.

The shuttle gradually was gaining on the station, and the two craft were on opposite sides of Earth at midday Tuesday, not quite 24 hours into the chase.

“You've got 8,000 miles of rock between you and it,” Mission Control informed shuttle commander Charles Hobaugh.

“I'm seeing somebody out in front, must not be them,” Hobaugh joked.

“Can you get the license plate number for us?” Mission Control asked.

“Looks like one of those personalised license plates,” Hobaugh replied.

Hobaugh and his crew spent much of their first full day in orbit inspecting the shuttle's thermal shielding. They used a 30-meter, laser-tipped boom to scan the wings and nose cap, routine work that took hours to complete.

Flight director Mike Sarafin said the survey did not reveal any obvious problems, “but that was just based on my untrained eyeball.” Experts have yet to go through the data, he said.

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