Switch replaced, 'Endeavor' set for liftoff

ORLANDO —U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the wounded Arizona congresswoman, will be back at Kennedy Space Center today to watch her husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, take off as commander of the shuttle Endeavour's last flight.

A new switch box has replaced the faulty one that held up the previous launch attempt April 29. And the $2 billion astrophysics experiment that is the principal reason for this trip to the International Space Station will be safely stowed.

NASA's remaining worry is a slight one: a 30 percent chance of bad weather because of the possibility of high crosswinds and cloud cover at Cape Canaveral this morning. Liftoff is scheduled for 8:56 a.m. for a mission rescheduled a half-dozen times since last summer.

Mission management team chairman Mike Moses said over the weekend that engineers conclusively determined what caused the glitch that canceled the April 29 launch attempt, and the new switch box takes care of the problem.

About 500,000 people are expected to gather along the coast to watch the penultimate launch in the space shuttle's 30-year, 134-mission history.

An estimated 750,000, including President Barack Obama and his family, had gathered for the previous launch attempt. But three hours before launch time, NASA scrubbed the flight because of heater failures traced to the faulty switch box.

Among those watching was Giffords, the Democratic congresswoman recovering from a gunshot wound to the head from a gunman who killed six and wounded 12 in January.

While continuing what her doctors have labeled a "miraculous recovery," she traveled from a rehabilitation hospital in Houston and will watch the launch with other astronaut families.

Switch replaced, 'Endeavor' set for liftoff 05/15/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 15, 2011 11:35pm]

    

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