Atlantis crew not worried about small blanket gap--for now

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (AP) - NASA officials are satisfied that a four-inch gap in the space shuttle's heat-protecting blanket is not an urgent problem.

So now they're looking ahead to tomorrow's link-up with the space station. You think parallel parking is a challenge?

Ponder joining two vehicles weighing 230-thousand pounds going 17-thousand-500 miles-per-hour.

The mission management team leader says that's "tough stuff."

When Atlantis is 600 feet below the station it'll turn a backflip in just nine minutes.

The last few feet of the docking occur so slowly that Atlantis will get only an inch closer to the station every second.

After tomorrow's space embrace, astronaut Clayton Anderson will replace astronaut Sunita Williams aboard the space station, and Williams will return to Earth aboard Atlantis. Spacewalks are on tap Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- to install the new equipment and retract an old solar panel.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)