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Countdown begins to launch space shuttle Endeavour

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HOUSTON (PTI): The countdown has begun at Kennedy Space Centre on Monday for launching of space shuttle Endeavour with thousands of spectators including wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords arriving in Florida to watch her husband's last launch.

“Gabrielle landed safely in Florida. Smooth flight with STS 134 astronaut Greg Johnson's family. Thanks to NASA for great fly-by of launch pad,” sources said.

Giffords has been rehabilitating in Houston after suffering a gunshot wound during a shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz.

Giffords was present for Endeavour's first launch attempt in April, which was scrubbed because of an electrical problem.

Only President Barack Obama and his family, who came to Kennedy Space Centre to watch the last launch, will be missing as Endeavour attempts its 25th – and final – liftoff into low Earth orbit.

About 500,000 people are expected to gather along the Brevard County coast to watch what would be the penultimate launch in the space shuttle’s 30-year, 134-mission history.

Everything was going on schedule Friday, NASA test director Jeff Spaulding reported.

Around noon Sunday, the shuttle's metal protective scaffolding, called the Rotating Service Structure, was rolled away from Endeavour in preparation for liftoff.

Endeavour's six-man crew spent Sunday reviewing their mission plans, meeting with mission managers, and resting up before going to bed at 4 pm in preparation for their morning liftoff.

Six seasoned astronauts will be riding the space shuttle Endeavour when it blasts off to space one last time.

The crew will make a second attempt at launching after an earlier try two weeks ago was called off over a technical glitch.

Endeavour is slated for a 16-day sojourn to the International Space Station to deliver spare parts and a $2 billion astrophysics experiment called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the orbiting laboratory.

The STS-134 crew includes commander Mark Kelly, pilot Greg H Johnson and mission specialists Michael Fincke, Andrew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff and Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori.

Kelly, a veteran of three previous space shuttle missions, will serve as commander on Endeavour's STS-134 mission.

He said he was proud to serve on the second-to-last space shuttle mission planned before NASA retires its three-orbiter fleet.

“This is the most capable spacecraft that's ever been built and probably will be built for a long period of time,” Kelly said in a NASA interview.

“And, I think Americans should be proud that we've been able to build such a thing and operate it successfully for such a long period of time.”

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Endeavour  NASA  
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