Injured Congresswoman Watches As Endeavour Lifts Off For Final T - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Injured Congresswoman Watches As Endeavour Lifts Off For Final Trip

MSNBC.COM - Six astronauts rode the space shuttle Endeavour into space for the last time on Monday as a wounded congresswoman and hundreds of thousands of others watched.

Endeavour rode a pillar of flame into Florida's partly cloudy skies right on time, at 8:56 a.m. ET. Two weeks earlier, an electronics glitch spoiled the previous launch attempt, but Monday's countdown was trouble-free.

The shuttle is due to link up with the International Space Station on Wednesday. "Godspeed, Endeavour. We're ready for you," NASA astronaut Ron Garan said in a Twitter update from the International Space Station.

Endeavour's 16-day mission to the space station, known as STS-134, is notable for several reasons — including its status as the second-to-last scheduled flight for the 30-year-long space shuttle program as well as its planned delivery of a $2 billion particle-physics experiment.

But there's a big personal angle as well: The wife of Endeavour commander Mark Kelly is U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who suffered a life-threatening head wound during a mass shooting in Tucson in January. The prospect of attending this launch served as a therapeutic goal for Giffords, who has spent much of the past four months at a Houston rehabilitation center.

Giffords attended Endeavour's first launch attempt on April 29, and came back to the Cape for Monday's launch. Her staff reported that she said goodbye to her husband during a beach-house gathering on Sunday afternoon.

Giffords' chief of staff, Pia Carusone, told NBC's TODAY show that the congresswoman was "really excited" to see Kelly blast off and was "obviously happy she was able to make it." CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

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