The U.S. space agency, NASA, has cleared the shuttle Discovery to return to Earth next Monday, saying no more repairs to the orbiter are needed.
NASA had been concerned that a torn thermal blanket near the cockpit could come loose and strike Discovery during the critical re-entry phase of the mission. But deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said Thursday the risk of serious damage is "remote." He said any attempt to fix the blanket problem could cause greater harm to the spacecraft.
Wednesday, astronaut Steve Robinson performed a spacewalk to remove two small pieces of fabric between the shuttle's heat-resistant tiles. NASA engineers have focused special attention on any potential damage to the shuttle that could endanger its return. Damage on the wing of the shuttle Columbia led to its breakup during re-entry in 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard.