Lacking the proper laser tools, shuttle Discovery's astronauts performed a cursory wing inspection Sunday as they zoomed closer to the international space station.
The astronauts used their ship's 50-foot robot arm to beam down camera images of the upper edges of the wings so engineers back on Earth could check for any evidence of launch damage. Left unexamined were the lower edges of the wings and the nose cap, also particularly vulnerable hot spots during re-entry.
Discovery did not have enough room for the 50-foot boom because of the enormous Japanese lab that fills its payload bay.
About five pieces of insulating foam broke off Discovery's external fuel tank during liftoff, and one or two of them may have hit the shuttle. NASA officials said they were not too worried because the foam losses occurred after the first two minutes of the flight and therefore lacked the acceleration to do much, if any, damage.
The seven shuttle astronauts, with help from the space station's three residents, will install Japan's $1-billion lab on Tuesday.
'Phoenix' spacecraft touches Martian soil
NASA's new robot on Mars has reached out and touched the soil for the first time, leaving behind a striking footprint-like impression, scientists said Sunday.
The Phoenix Mars Lander's robotic arm was making a test run, just one week after its landing. The spacecraft, which is also its own laboratory, will soon start scooping up soil and ice and running tests on it.
NASA showed sharp images Saturday of what appeared to be ice exposed under the lander. The mission's main goal is to test ice for evidence of organic compounds that are the chemical building blocks of life.
Mayor says crane accidents unrelated
As the Manhattan district attorney launches a criminal inquiry of the crane collapse Friday that killed two construction workers and seriously injured a third, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the incident appears unrelated to a March crane collapse that killed seven.
"It would appear that there is no connection whatsoever between the two accidents," Bloomberg said Sunday. He confirmed investigations by the DA, Department of Buildings and the city's Department of Investigations.
Study: Child cancer higher in Northeast
A large government study suggests that childhood cancer is most common in the Northeast, the first study to find notable regional differences in pediatric cancer. The results caught experts off guard, but some specialists say it could just reflect differences in reporting.
Experts say the study also confirms that cancer is rare in children but more common in older kids, especially among white boys.
The study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that cancer affects about 166 of every million children. The highest rate was in the Northeast, with 179 cases per million children, while the lowest was among children in the South, 159 cases per million. Some experts suggested that could mean cases were underreported in the South and over-reported elsewhere.
The cancer incidence in boys was 174 cases per million, compared with 157 cases per million in girls. In white children, the rate was 173 per million, vs. 164 per million in Hispanics and 118 per million in blacks.
The study identified 36,446 cases in its analysis of 2001-03 data. The research appears in the June edition of Pediatrics, released today.