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Space shuttle Endeavour blasts off for final mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Endeavour blasted off for its final flight, Monday, just before 9 a.m.

A crowd of more than 400,000 people came to see the shuttle liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Among those in attendance was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who witnessed her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, lead the shuttle on its historic journey.

Giffords is still recovering from an assassination attempt back in January. Her staff  tweeted that she was excited for the event.

Seconds before the shuttle launched, Commander Kelly acknowledged his team’s hard work, and thanked supporters.

“This mission represents the power of teamwork, commitment, and exploration. It is in the DNA of our country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop. To all the millions watching today, including our spouses, children, family and friends, we thank you for your support.”

There was doubt the shuttle might not take off, though. According to shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters, there was a 30 per cent chance that mother nature could prohibit the launch.

“Our main concern is going to be crosswinds … and there’s a slight chance of a low cloud ceiling as well,” she said.

Still, the conditions were much different than the previous attempt on April 29, when the protective cover was kept on for five hours because of storms, and electrical issues led to the launch being scrubbed.

The schedule for Endeavour’s liftoff was as follows: 

  • 3:30 a.m.  Launch Coverage Begins on NASA TV and the Launch Blog 
  • 4:31 a.m.  Astronauts receive a weather briefing from the Ascent Team 
  • 4:41 a.m.  Astronauts suit up for launch 
  • 5:06 a.m.  Countdown resumes at the T-3 hour mark 
  • 5:11 a.m.  Crew departs for Launch Pad 39A 
  • 5:41 p.m.  The astronauts begin to board Endeavour 
  • 6:56 a.m.  Endeavour’s hatch is closed and latched for launch 
  • 7:46 a.m.  Countdown enters a 10-minute built-in hold at the T-20 minute mark 
  • 7:56 a.m.  Countdown resumes at the T-20 minute mark 
  • 8:07 a.m.  Countdown enters a ~40-minute built-in hold at the T-9 minute mark – MMT conducts final poll “Go-No Go” for launch 
  • 8:52 a.m.  Countdown resumes at the T-9 minute mark 
  • 8:56:26 a.m.  Launch of Endeavour on the STS-134 Mission 
  • 9:04:49 a.m.  Main Engine Cut-Off (MECO)
  • 10 a.m.  NASA TV: Post launch news conference 

Endeavour is NASA’s youngest orbiter. It has flown 187.3 million kilometres in 24 previous flights.

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