No shuttle launch but still a big day
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Everything seemed set for a magic moment. The wounded congresswoman was in town. The president was on his way. The space shuttle’s huge external tank was fueled.
But moments before Commander Mark E. Kelly was about to board Endeavour on Friday, NASA officials scrubbed a launch that had drawn hundreds of thousands of people to America’s “Space Coast.” The cancellation — caused by a possible faulty auxiliary power unit heater — deprived injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, (D-Ariz.), of a chance to watch her husband command Endeavour on its final mission and the penultimate launch of the U.S. space shuttle program.
NASA Launch Director Michael Leinbach says the shuttle crew may give it another try as soon as Monday afternoon, though it’s not uncommon for delays to last much longer.
Giffords’ presence had lent an emotional grace note to preparations for Endeavour’s launch and even overshadowed the planned visit of President Obama and the first family — the first time a sitting president was to attend a shuttle launch since Bill Clinton in 1998. Giffords flew in two days earlier from Houston, where she has delighted doctors with the pace of her recovery after being shot in the head and nearly killed Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz. Grainy footage of Giffords climbing the stairs of her plane with only minimal help captivated viewers, and heartened fellow victims of the shooting, which left six dead and 12 others wounded.
“She is a miracle now,” Mavy Stoddard, who lost her husband and suffered three bullet wounds in the shooting, said in an interview from her Tucson home. “And miracles do happen.”Read More and see Videos...
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- Loughner back in Tuscon after mental exams
- Video: Giffords boards plane for shuttle launch