Fans, VIPs turn out for Endeavour’s final flight
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.