That decision was made after cameras detected a piece of debris near the shuttle early Tuesday.
The survey is to make sure Atlantis is ready for re-entry and its landing at the Kennedy Space Center. Florida weather also was questionable for a Wednesday landing.
The crew woke up at 8:45 p.m. CDT Tuesday to “Beautiful Day” by U2, played for Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper. After some routine personal time, they began the survey at about 11:30 p.m. Pilot Chris Ferguson and Mission Specialists Dan Burbank and Steve MacLean are using the shuttle's robotic arm and its cameras to get a full look at Atlantis' thermal protection system. The task could take up to five hours.
Specialists on the ground will review the imagery as it is available and determine if a more detailed survey using the 50-foot orbiter boom sensor system (OBSS) is warranted. The OBSS survey, if needed, would take another three hours.
Atlantis Commander Brent Jett and Mission Specialists Joe Tanner and Piper will help as needed with the survey and continue with other tasks including waste and water dump, exercise, downlink of imagery and stowage of the Payload General Support Computer.
Atlantis' next landing opportunity is Thursday with a deorbit engine firing at 4:14 a.m. CDT and touchdown at 5:22 a.m. Atlantis has enough supplies to stay in orbit until Saturday.
Early Wednesday International Space Station Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, and spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari arrived at the orbiting laboratory. Their Soyuz docked at 12:21 a.m. The hatch opening and welcoming ceremony with the Expedition 13 crew, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineers Jeff Williams and Thomas Reiter, is scheduled for 3:30 a.m.