Fans, VIPs turn out for En­deav­our’s fi­nal flight

Red Eye Chicago - - Nation/world -

Ev­ery­thing is on track for Fri­day’s launch of the space shut­tle En­deav­our, with Pres­i­dent Obama, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords and as many as 700,000 on­look­ers along the Space Coast on hand to cheer its fi­nal mis­sion. But the weather could dis­ap­point ev­ery­one. Shut­tle weather of­fi­cer Kathy Win­ters said Thurs­day that the prospects of cross­winds and cloud cover Fri­day af­ter­noon have in­creased the prob­a­bil­ity of a weather-de­layed launch to 30 per­cent, up from the 20 per­cent pre­dic­tion NASA has been hold­ing much of the week.

The launch is slated for 2:47 p.m. CDT. The Obama fam­ily and Gif­fords, the Ari­zona Demo­crat crit­i­cally wounded in the Tuc­son shoot­ing in Jan­uary, are plan­ning to be at Kennedy for the launch, along with scores of other VIPs. Gif­fords’ hus­band, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, is En­deav­our’s com­man­der.

Also in the area: hun­dreds of thou­sands of shut­tle watch­ers. NASA test di­rec­tor Jeff Spauld­ing, who over­sees the count­down, said the es­ti­mates cited ear­lier of 45,000 peo­ple at Kennedy Space Cen­ter and 700,000 in Bre­vard County were prob­a­bly good.

Those spec­ta­tors—and spe­cial se­cu­rity for the Oba­mas and Gif­fords—should not af­fect prepa­ra­tions, the count­down, or any de­ci­sions re­lat­ing to whether high winds or other fac­tors might cause a scrubbed launch, he said.

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