NASA Clears Atlantis for Re-Entry

In this image from NASA Television, the Columbus module is lifted from the payload bay of the shuttle Atlantis by the robotic arm so it can be installed on International Space Station, Monday, Feb. 11, 2008. (AP Photo/NASA TV)
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International Space Station (AP) 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 $2 billion lab is scheduled for this afternoon.

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

Officials aren't disclosing the astronaut's illness.

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