Endeavour's Final Launch Delayed

Both President Obama and wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona were scheduled to attend this afternoon's 3:47 p.m. EDT launch of STS-134, scheduled to be the final mission of NASA's space shuttle Endeavour. The launch has been delayed at least until Sunday, however, "because of an issue with Auxiliary Power Unit 1 heaters," according to an announcement NASA posted.

The launch already had a higher profile than many past shuttle launches because NASA's fleet is being retired. Endeavour, first flown in May 1992, is slated to spend its retirement years at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The presence of the president and the congresswoman -- she is recovering after being shot during a January 2011 event in Tucson to meet constituents and is married to this mission's commander, Capt. Mark Kelly -- brought even more attention.

With two shuttles and their astronaut crews having been lost in launch or re-entry explosions during the program's history, no shuttle launch can be considered routine. But problems such as this one with heating units have been common prior to launches.

Besides Kelly, the crew for this 14-day mission consists of Greg Johnson, the pilot, and mission specialists Mike Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Drew Feustel, and Greg Chamitoff. They will deliver a particle physics detector to the International Space Station and are scheduled to make four spacewalks -- the last scheduled spacewalks of the shuttle era, which has just one mission left after this one -- to do maintenance work and install new components.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Apr 29, 2011