Endeavour On Track For Friday Launching
Shuttle Endeavour will make one last voyage into space on Friday and expected to be cheering it on at the historic launching in Florida are President Barack Obama, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and upwards of 700,000 people.
The mission, STS-134, will be Endeavour's 25th flight and the second-to-last time NASA plans to use its shuttles to ferry astronauts into space.
Liftoff from Kennedy Space Center remains targeted at 12:47 p.m. PDT. There is a 70 percent chance of favorable weather at launch time and the only concerns may be crosswinds and a low cloud ceiling, said Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer, at a news briefing Thursday.
Obama and his family are expected to arrive Friday and tour the center's orbiter processing facility before viewing the launching.
Giffords, who was shot in the head in January from an assassination attempt and has been recovering in Houston, arrived Wednesday. She received approval from doctors last week to attend the launching to see her husband Mark Kelly, mission commander, fly on the shuttle.
Kelly is joined by a veteran astronaut crew: pilot Gregory H. Johnson and NASA mission specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency mission specialist Roberto Vittori.
The 14-day mission will deliver spare parts, critical supplies and experiments to the International Space Station, including a $2 billion particle physics detector called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 to help researchers study the formation of the universe.
After three decades of service, the shuttle program will conclude later this year and its orbiters will become museum pieces. Endeavour will end up at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
NASA does not have a replacement for the shuttles and will rely on Russia's Soyuz capsules to carry crews to the space station-- at least until U.S. commercial companies can provide the services.
Atlantis is due to fly the last shuttle mission, STS-135, in late June.