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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A routine shuttle mission, highlighted by a teacher's first spaceflight and space station construction, is now overshadowed by a potentially serious gash in Endeavour's thermal shield.
A detailed laser inspection on Sunday of the difficult-to-reach area on Endeavour's belly may send astronauts out to repair the 3-inch wound later in the week. A severe penetration could let in searing gases when the shuttle returns to Earth in a possible replay of the Columbia accident.