NASA announces launch dates, backup commander


In the wake of the tragedy that took place last week in Tucson, Arizona, NASA has announced that astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as backup commander for the STS-134 mission on the shuttle – Endeavour. This was decided so that the remainder of the crew could move forward with training during the absence of current STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly.

Kelly’s wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was wounded in a shooting on Jan. 8, at an outdoor event at a Safeway supermarket, dubbed “Congress on your Corner.” She was shot in the head by alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner. Loughner, who listed the Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books, shot a total of 18 people, six of whom have died. Loughner has a long history of mental instability, drug use and run-ins with the law.

Both STS-133 and STS-134 have had launch dates announced. Image Credit:

The final flight of Endeavour is currently scheduled for Apr. 19 – Kelly remains commander of the mission.

“Mark is still the commander of STS-134,” said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. “He is facing many uncertainties now as he supports Gabrielle, and our goal is to allow him to keep his undistracted attention on his family while allowing preparations for the mission to progress. Designating a backup allows the crew and support team to continue training, and enables Mark to focus on his wife’s care.”

Sturckow will start his training next week at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Texas with the remainder of the STS-134 crew, Pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialists; Mike Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff.

Endeavour’s final, 14-day, mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02). It will also contain much-needed spare parts including two S-band antennas, a gas tank, and spare parts for Canada’s Dextre robot.

NASA is hoping to launch Discovery at 4:50 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Feb. 24, on the orbiter’s STS-133 mission to the orbiting outpost. Endeavour’s final mission, STS-134, is currently slated to take place at 7:48 p.m. EDT on Apr. 19. The dates were chosen Thursday during the shuttle program’s weekly Program Requirements Control Board meeting (PRCB). Normally launch dates are confirmed about two weeks prior to launch, and as always, these dates are subject to various conditions – and to change.

From left-to-right, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Navy Captain and astronaut Mark Kelly. Photo Credit: Tucsoncitizen

22 Replies to “NASA announces launch dates, backup commander”

  1. Sir.. our hearts and prayers are with you and Gabrielle and your family. And Sir, don’t worry about missing your flight, we’ll get you back up there! Promise….

  2. Mr Rhian:
    Should you chose to opine about current affairs, try another forum besides UT. Your distasteful (and selective) quote: “Loughner, who listed the Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books….” is both inflammatory and irrelevant to the issue at hand. I would have objected equally if you had cited “The Phantom Tollbooth” or “Alice in Wonderland” instead, other books in his “library.” Regardless, this tragedy does not warrant cheap shot by pundits of any stripe or persuasion. Peace out.

    1. Exactly. All the more so that many books from a wide gamut are extensively cited throughout the web as Loughner’s reads.

    2. Opine means to use “opinion” – this is not opinion. It is also neither inflammatory nor irrelevant but speaks to his mind set (as when I listed his mental, drug and legal issues). However, you didn’t complain when I mentioned any of these – you honed in on this one thing? Sorry, but it sounds like you’re being selective.

      As tripleclean suggests, the only people who would be offended by this are communists. If so, please accept my sincerest apologies.

      Peace out? How about another pop saying instead: “Don’t hate the player hate the game.”

      1. All the comments above are a beautiful example of how the United States and Canada have entered an age of hair trigger sensitivity. I blame 24/7 talk radio and 24/7 talk television on BOTH sides of the aisle. I don’t care if you’re a liberal, moderate or conservative…….. I just think talk radio and talk television are delivering an evil dose of “passion poison” on both ends of the political spectrum.

    3. All due respect to the opposing sides here, regardless of the purported opinions that political motives were not involved, the fact remains he, with premeditation, did target a political rally and specifically, Congresswoman Giffords. Why? We hope that will be revealed. In defense of Mr. Rhian, a mention of the repertoire of books owned/read(?) by a psychopathic killer is always brought forward as motive and I doubt “Alice in Wonderland” would be one in which a prosecutor would consider as damning. Now, The Communist Manifesto might be considered a bit more relevant.

  3. I agree with kservall says here that this is inflammatory and irrelevant, but for a different reason. To spite someone who already spites you makes you just as bad as the evildoer who did this awful unspeakable crime. IMO, he should not have been mentioned. He’ll get his just desserts in court. Provocation when people are already angry helps no one.
    Mark and Gabrielle deserve our best wishes, support and assistance to get over this trauma. You should be elevating them and not be bringing them down to level of the wrongdoer.

    1. You have a point. And as an aside, I do hope you escaped the devastation your Country has suffered through.

      1. Much appreciated.You cannot but feel for their loss. The community spirit in Brisbane at the moment is just breathtaking. Fortunately all my own friends there seem to have avoided the worst.

      2. I feel for their loss as should everyone. And I also feel for the loss of those in Australia. My sympathies.

        Now, for the one fragment of a sentence that seems to be the focus of everyone here…..get over it!!!! Inflammatory, irrelevant or whatever. Maybe it does give a false impression, maybe not…..who are any of us to judge that. Unfortunately, politics is a part of most things these days, including the space program. So to say that such comments don’t belong is wrong.

        Let everyone say what he or she wishes…..censors be damned.

      3. unless of course you want to belong to a communist society, where the rockets lift “everyone” up…..or is that a drug

  4. The comments above are a beautiful example of how the U.S. and Canada have entered an age of hair trigger sensitivity. I blame 24/7 talk radio and 24/7 talk television on BOTH sides of the aisle. I don’t care if you’re a liberal, moderate or conservative…….. I just think talk radio and talk television are delivering an evil dose of “passion poison” on both ends of the political spectrum.

  5. I am tired of peoples counter argument to facts are that they are offended by them. What apeals about the science of astronomy to me is the observation, it’s really all you get to do when your looking at light years distant. For many years eastern bloc communist states bank-rolled Yasser Arafat use of terrorism and justified it as moral in advancing his cause, while Arafat’s whole he life shot herion and was a practicing homosexual-petophile finaly sucumbing to AIDS. All true stuff but if you write a news article about those facts somebody gets upset. It doesn’t matter if it’s about current events or the history of the universe and the big bang ,somebody has a dog in the fight and they want to ignore or bend the facts. The simple fact is the kid had Karl Marks book, he had a gun and he went to Giffords rally that day because they sent him a written invitation, he is a nut case and has something against grammer just like that clown who used to post all over UT about had something against gravation (oilsmastery) nobody saw all of this comming and he shot them up. This doesn’t have anything to do with right-wing talk radio,BHO’s lack of birthcert or DADT this shooter is just an wacko plain and simple.

    1. Except for the “not so true truths” I agree with you. 🙂

      The shooter is a whacko as are most people who try to censor others..

    2. has something against grammer

      ??? And what do you have against spelling? 😮

      More seriously, your, Rhian’s and bochum99’s “simple truth” is, sorry to say, a laughable matter, for reasons that I recount in my comment below. And that is the simple fact.

  6. Mr. Rhian,

    I’m not a communist, and I am offended. We are supposed to think communism is bad just because this mentally damaged person happened to have a copy of the Manifesto? Communism as a state system has been thoroughly discredited already, and not because some nutjob owns a copy of one of its founding documents.

    I am offended by the use of tactics of guilt by association. Loughner spoke most of all about the U.S. Constitution. Maybe you should take a swipe at that document as well?

    Really, it was unnecessary to discuss Loughner on this blog at all. Anybody who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past week knows what there is to know about him. The rest of the post, about Young and the Endeavour mission, was interesting.

    My best wishes to Giffords and Young.

  7. So I wondered what the fuss was about.

    Loughner, who listed the Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books, shot a total of 18 people, six of whom have died. Loughner has a long history of mental instability, drug use and run-ins with the law.

    First an appeal to consequences and a guilt by association fallacy (“Communist Manifesto”), then a cherry picking fallacy (“mental instability”).

    As for the first fallacy, it is well known that Loughner voted republican. That means he was either really confused, some cherry picked books doesn’t show his predilections, or quite simply that this indeed was a fallacy from the start. Or would UT rather replace or augment the description with the party choice?

    As for the cherry picking, “mental instability” isn’t in evidence as it needs a diagnosis, nor does it enhance statistics on violence. Since I’ve run out of links to get this posted, I’ll just quote from Vaughan Bell’s post on Slate (“Crazy Talk – We’re too quick to use “mental illness” as an explanation for violence.”):

    “Rather than looking at individual cases, or even single studies, Fazel’s team analyzed all the scientific findings they could find. As a result, they can say with confidence that psychiatric diagnoses tell us next to nothing about someone’s propensity or motive for violence.”

    “If that doesn’t make sense to you, here’s an analogy: Soccer hooligans are much more likely to be violent when they attend a match, but if you tell me that your friend has gone to a soccer match, I’ll know nothing about how violent a person he is. Similarly, if you tell me your friend punched someone, the fact that he goes to soccer matches tells me nothing about what caused the confrontation. This puts recent speculation about the Arizona suspect in a distinctly different light: If you found evidence on the Web that Jared Lee Loughner or some other suspected killer was obsessed with soccer or football or hockey and suggested it might be an explanation for his crime, you’d be laughed at. But do the same with “schizophrenia” and people nod in solemn agreement.” [My bold.]

    So now we all have to laugh at Jason Rhian!? Or maybe UT should take a hard long look on itself and its (commendable!) policy about “no personal theories”.

    1. I a bit surprised in this thread between to concepts of censorship and decency. No one here is advocating that words should removed or not. It is just there is a time and place for everything.

      Frankly, I am far more deeply disturbed about the senseless death of the 9 year old girl, Christina Green. As was reported in the New York Times Born on Sept. 11, Claimed by a New Horror (now one whole week ago.)

      Now how to respond to her grieving mother, who said upon going to University Medical Center in Tucson;

      “We waited for a while, and then the surgeon and people from the I.C.U. unit came in and police officers and other people, and they told us the bad news, she had a bullet hole to the chest, and they tried to save her, but she just couldn’t make it. It was really, really bad.”

      As for the general responses in this thread, her mother sums it up properly;
      “I think there’s been a lot of hatred going, and it needs to stop.”

      She’s absolutely right!

      As for the assailant… Don’t worry folks. His time is going to come, but not right now.

      As for the “present”, thank you Torbjorn for the link. I’ll add it to my growing collection of EU/PC information/ propaganda that I’ve been accumulating for ages.
      I now have a special folder on my computer desktop just in case I need something to counteract these somewhat lost followers of pseudoscience. Chalk it up as another notch in PC/EU demise!

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