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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 03:54 GMT 04:54 UK
Nasa opts not to repair shuttle
Canadian astronaut Dave Williams carries out repairs
A spacewalk repair would have been risky
The hole in space shuttle Endeavour's underside will not be repaired before it returns to Earth, Nasa has said.

Agency officials took almost a week to decide whether to send astronauts outside to repair the 9cm (3.5in) gash.

They had been worried that the hole could lead to structural damage on re-entry, but extensive tests concluded it should pose no problem.

Endeavour is carrying out a 14-day mission to continue the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS).

During launch on 8 August, a chunk of insulating foam hit the shuttle, creating a square gouge about the length and width of a business card.

Nasa's mission managers carried out tests on Earth to determine whether two astronauts should be sent on a spacewalk to repair the damage.

Major concern

Mission Control told the seven shuttle astronauts of the decision on Thursday, and Endeavour's relieved commander, Scott Kelly, thanked everyone on the ground for their hard work.

I think we should give the programme a break, of about a decade or so and concentrate on exploring the mostly unexplored oceans
Chris, Essex, UK

Mission Control replied: "It's great we finally have a decision and we can press forward."

Foam damage has been a major concern for Nasa since the Columbia disaster in 2003 when a briefcase-sized chunk of foam insulation broke off during launch and pierced the shuttle's wing.

This caused the shuttle to disintegrate on re-entry into the atmosphere, killing all seven crew.

The current mission was scheduled to last for 11 days but was extended to 14 thanks to a new piece of equipment that allows the shuttle to tap into the power grid of the ISS.

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