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Countdown begins for Endeavour

Space shuttle Endeavour commander Mark Kelly climbs out of his jet after arriving at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Tuesday. The shuttle is scheduled to lift off Friday afternoon.

Associated Press

Space shuttle Endeavour commander Mark Kelly climbs out of his jet after arriving at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Tuesday. The shuttle is scheduled to lift off Friday afternoon.

Countdown begins for 'Endeavour'

Space shuttle Endeavour's commander, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, and his five crewmates flew into Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral early Tuesday afternoon. The countdown for the shuttle's launch Friday began about an hour later.

Kelly said his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, would follow him "pretty soon" — in plenty of time for liftoff. "She's been working really hard to make sure that her doctors would permit her to come. She's more than medically ready to be here, and she's excited about making this trip," he said.

Giffords is undergoing rehabilitation in Houston for a gunshot wound to the head. She was attacked Jan. 8 in her Tucson, Ariz., hometown.

Endeavour will carry a $2 billion particle physics experiment to the International Space Station along with a load of spare station parts. President Barack Obama and his family will attend the liftoff, scheduled for 3:47 p.m. Friday. Forecasters put the odds of good launch weather at 80 percent.

This will be the 134th shuttle mission overall and the 25th for NASA's youngest shuttle. It first flew in 1992, as the replacement for the lost Challenger. The 30-year shuttle program ends this summer with the flight of Atlantis.

Endeavour will retire to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Skydivers prefer aerial view

If you think watching a space shuttle launch is a remarkable experience, try viewing it from 10,000 feet in the air. Up to 23 skydivers plan on parachuting for a better view of Endeavour's final flight Friday. "You get to see the whole trajectory and the launch pad when it's taking off," said Bob Edmiston, a Port St. Lucie resident who has skydived six times before to watch space shuttles lift off from Kennedy Space Center. The group will leave from Skydive Sebastian, about 50 miles away from the launch pad and the closest skydiving location to the space center that is outside NASA's 35-mile-radius flight restriction zone. Skydive Sebastian already has a signup list with about 30 people to see Atlantis launch in June, the last launch in space shuttle history.

Scripps Howard News Service

Countdown begins for Endeavour 04/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 10:50pm]

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