On the first day of the final US shuttle mission, astronauts inspected the hull of the Atlantis and so far, there have been no reports of any damage.

The crew needs to ensure that there was no damage to the heat-shields that protect the shuttle as it re-enters orbit.

After deploying a Canadian-made robotic arm to scan the underside of the ship, no problems were discovered upon first viewing.

Though extremely rare,  launches could send debris into the vulnerable heat tiles on the underbelly of the shuttle. The results can be catastrophic.

In 2003, the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed when it returned to Earth because of damage to the protective tiles during liftoff.

Today's inspection is the first of many.

About 600 feet below the station, Atlantis did a backflip to enable station crew members to photograph the shuttle's heat shield.

The photos were sent to mission control to be evaluated by experts on the ground to look for any damage.

Flight controllers began monitoring reports from the Department of Defense's U.S. Strategic Command that a piece of orbital debris may come near the station and shuttle complex about noon on Tuesday.

The debris, part of satellite COSMOS 375, is one of more than 500,000 pieces of debris tracked in Earth's orbit.

The team expected updated tracking information later today to help determine if a maneuver using the shuttle's thrusters is necessary to avoid the debris.