Endeavour's Cargo Fuels Excitement
by: Pat Hernandez, April 28, 2011 9:04:00 pm
Among the dignitaries on hand for the event include President Barack Obama and his family — only the second time a sitting president has watched a shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral — and Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the wife of shuttle commander Mark Kelly. She continues her rehabilitation here in Houston.
The STS-134 crew stands together on Launch Pad 39A in front of the towering external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters of space shuttle Endeavour, one day before its final flight, the STS-134 mission, to the International Space Station. From left are Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Andrew Feustel; Pilot Greg H. Johnson; Commander Mark Kelly; European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori and Mission Specialist Greg Chamitoff. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Kelly leads the six member crew on a two week mission to the ISS to deliver a seven ton instrument called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Built over the past 17-years, the 2-billion dollar machine will analyze particles in high energy cosmic rays, in the hope they shed light on the nature of dark matter — the invisible substance that clumps around galaxies and makes up a quarter of the known universe.
Shuttle payload manager Joe Delai says other supplies crammed into the payload bay include a platform loaded with spare parts that astronauts can use for basic repairs over the rest of the space station's lifetime.
"Just looking and reviewing the map of all the space that was available, they (chuckle) used every inch that was available to bring supplies up there, knowing that this is the second to last launch."
Forecasters have increased the chance of poor weather conditions delaying the launch to 30-percent. Still, NASA test director Jeff Spaulding says they're bracing for a huge turnout.
"Certainly the folks locally recognize the historic nature of this the last flight of Endeavour, as well as the second to the last shuttle flight, and for that reason it's very important to all of us that live and work in this community. And then likewise, the attention that it's getting from all of the people around the world, which are visiting us, and be part of this incredible crowd is very exciting."
Endeavour is scheduled for lift off tomorrow afternoon at 2:37 Houston time.