Discovery Investigation Of Debris

NASA's lead flight director says engineers looking at damage to the shuttle Discovery don't believe that it's serious enough to endanger the shuttle or its astronauts.  Paul Hill says it's still too early for the experts to give a final assessment.

The Discovery astronauts spent hours today sending images of the shuttle tiles back to NASA so engineers can determine the extent of the debris damage that occurred during yesterday's liftoff.  Hill says there's so much data, more than ever before, that nearly 200 NASA experts have been assigned to examine it.

Hill says it's possible the chipped tiles may have to be repaired but it's also possible that Discovery can make it back to Earth without a fix.  He doesn't expect a final determination to be made for at least another 24 hours, but NASA mission managers expect to have a better feel for the condition of the shuttle sometime this evening.

Hill says shuttles have landed in the past with far more damage. However, after the Columbia disaster, he says the threshold for concern is now different.