Shuttle Update

* Discovery's astronauts used a laser-equipped robot arm yesterday to carefully inspect the shuttle's nose and wings for signs of damage from Tuesday's liftoff.

Film of the launch showed a small piece of heat-shielding tile apparently breaking off the shuttle's belly. Also, an object thought to be foam insulation seemed to fly off the external fuel tank. Engineers said the chipped tile did not appear to be a serious problem.

Tile dings are not unusual during launches. However, officials are being extra careful because of what happened to the shuttle Columbia in 2003. A large piece of foam insulation broke off during Columbia's launch and hit one of its wings. Sixteen days later, as the shuttle was returning, the gash let hot gases into the wing, which caused Columbia to break apart.

Monster Mice -- Aah!

* Monster mice are threatening already-endangered birds on a South Atlantic island.

The mice -- three times normal size -- are feasting on albatross, shearwater and petrel chicks on Gough Island, about midway between Africa and South America. Though much bigger than the mice, a million defenseless chicks are eaten each year while their parents are off searching for food.

On Gough Island, an albatross guards its chicks from hungry, oversized mice.