May 16, 2011
Endeavour Says Hello To Space One Last Time
Space shuttle Endeavour set out on its final mission on Monday after a two-week delay, 19 years to the day that she ended her maiden flight during STS-49 in 1992.
The space shuttle and its six-member crew are delivering an astronomical and particle physics experiment to the International Space Station. The $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is designed to illuminate dark matter and other exotic forms of nature that have eluded scientists.
Mark Kelly's wife, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was in attendance to watch her husband launch aboard the shuttle. Giffords is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head from an assassination attempt in January.
NASA had to repair a technical glitch that caused the shuttle to delay from its original April 29th launch date. A heater on one of the shuttle's onboard power generators failed just hours before the attempt.
This is Endeavour's 25th and final flight into space. It is the second-to-last space shuttle to embark on a mission.
Space shuttle Atlantis will be the final mission into space for the shuttle program later this summer.
The space agency is ending its 30-year-old shuttle program due to high operating costs and to develop spaceships that can travel to other destinations.
Russia will be the only country left to send crews to the space station until private firms are able to fly people into orbit.
Endeavour took off from the Kennedy Space Center at 8:56 EDT.
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