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ENDEAVOUR MAY HAVE BLASTED OFF LAST MONTH SANS SOME OF ITS PARTS

Space shuttle Endeavour may have blasted into orbit in March minus some parts.

A team is investigating whether metal washers were installed on four bolts between Endeavour and its external fuel tank, NASA spokeswoman Lisa Malone said Friday.The washers may have been misplaced by technicians after Endeavour landed or may never have been installed at all, Malone said.

"Our paperwork shows that we had those bolts and washers there preflight," Malone said. "That's the concern - if the signatures and stamps showing the hardware was there and the evidence shows (the washers) didn't fly."

A metallurgy laboratory will test the bolts and an attached plate to determine if the washers were ever installed.

Even if they weren't, there was no danger to Endeavour or its seven astronauts during the 161/2-day astronomy mission, Malone said, adding, "It's more of a management problem."

Endeavour landed March 18 at Edwards Air Force Base in California.