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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – A humongous crowd numbering perhaps half a million excited people is expected to witness the historic final blast off of Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Clocks are ticking down as the countdown enters the final phase before Monday morning’s liftoff (May 16) scheduled for 8:56 a.m. EDT from Pad 39 A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
Endeavour was unveiled for blastoff earlier today as a protective cocoon like structure was pulled away from the shuttle stack. The Rotating Service Structure (RSS) was retracted from around the orbiter starting at 11:45 a.m. over about 45 minutes and under a gorgeous blue sky. See my photo album
In a lucky break, expected thunderstorms that could have delayed the retraction and launch preparations actually passed through the area overnight, much earlier than expected.
Shuttle managers will gather at 11 p.m. tonight for a critical meeting and decision to give the “Go-No Go” directive to load the External Fuel Tank with supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel that powers the shuttle main engines for the eight and one half minute climb to orbit. The tanking process is scheduled to begin at 11:36 p.m.
There are no technical issues at this time that would prevent a launch. The weather outlook remains at “70 Percent GO”.
The goal of Endeavour and her all veteran six man crew is to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the International Space Station. The $2 Billion AMS is a state of the art particle physics detector that will search for dark matter, dark energy and antimatter and seek to determine how the Universe was born and evolved.
The 134 mission is set to last 16 days and will feature the final 4 spacewalks of the space shuttle program.
The crew will wake up at 12 a.m. Monday. They depart for the launch pad shortly after 5 a.m.
Launch coverage begins on NASA TV tonight at 11:30 P.M. shortly before fueling commences:
If you watch Endeavour’s launch, send me your launch and crowd photos to post in an STS-134 launch gallery here at Universe Today.
Read my related stories about the STS-134 mission here:
Looking to the Heavens with Endeavour; Launch Pad Photo Special
Endeavour Astronauts Arrive at Cape for May 16 Launch
NASA Sets May 16 for Last Launch of Endeavour; Atlantis Slips to July
Endeavour’s Final Launch further delayed another Week or more
On the Cusp of Endeavour’s Final Flight
Brush Fires Erupt at Kennedy Space Center during Endeavour’s Last Countdown
Commander Mark Kelly and STS-134 Crew Arrive at Kennedy for Endeavour’s Final Flight
President Obama to Attend Endeavour’s Last Launch on April 29
Shuttle Endeavour Photo Special: On Top of Pad 39A for Final Flight
Endeavour Mated to Rockets for Last Flight Photo Album
Endeavour Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building for Final Flight