Discovery Cleared to Return to Earth

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JOHNSON SPACE CENTER (AP) - Space shuttle Discovery's astronauts
have gotten some happy news: It's safe to fly home.

Mission Control has informed the crew of six that the ship's
thermal shielding is "100 percent cleared for entry" in another
week. Shuttle commander Steve Lindsey called that "great news."

Only one heat shield issue remained going into the Sunday
afternoon mission management meeting: a two-inch-long piece of
fabric filler sticking out about an inch from thermal tiles on
Discovery's belly.

Engineers determined it wasn't necessary to have an astronaut pluck the strip out during a spacewalk and that it poses no concern for the spaceship's return to Earth on July 17.

So managers gave the heat shield an official bill of health.

Officials had already decided that several other nicks and spots
are no big deal.

Texas A&M graduate Mike Fossum is part of the Discovery crew. He was one of two astronauts completing a more than seven-hour spacewalk on Saturday.