President Obama to Attend Endeavour’s Last Launch on April 29


President Barack Obama and the entire First Family apparently plan to attend the final launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour, according to government officials and multiple news outlets. Endeavour is slated to blast off on the STS-134 mission next Friday, April 29 from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 3:47 p.m. EDT.

There has already been intense drama surrounding the STS-134 mission because it is being commanded by Mark Kelly. Kelly is the husband of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona who was critically wounded by gunshots to her head at point blank range during an assassination attempt while attending a meet and greet with her constituents on Jan. 8, 2011. Six people – including a nine year old girl and a federal judge – were killed and a dozen more were wounded that awful day.

Space Shuttle Endeavour awaits her final launch on April 29, 2011 from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, FL Credit: Ken Kremer

The Presidents appearance at the STS-134 launch will almost certainly lead to skyrocketing interest, but has not yet been officially announced by NASA and the White House. The event is not yet listed on the presidents official schedule.

However, a tweet by the staff of Congresswoman Giffords on her official website states Obama will attend; “We are very happy that Pres. Obama is coming to Mark’s launch! This historic mission will be #Endeavours final flight.”

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told me today, “I cannot confirm whether the president will be coming to launch next week. If he’s coming, which I can’t confirm, we are a White House agency.”

“We always welcome a visit from the President,” Beutel said.

Security is always tight at KSC during a shuttle launch. A visit by President Obama will certainly lead to even tighter security controls and even more massive traffic jams.

Giant crowds were already expected for this historic final spaceflight of Space Shuttle Endeavour, NASA’s youngest Orbiter, on her 25th mission to space.

Endeavour is carrying the $2 Billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) ) on a 14-day flight to the International Space Station, a premier science instrument that will collect cosmic rays, search for dark energy, dark matter and anti matter and seeks to determine the origin of the Universe. See my photo below of the AMS from inside the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) at KSC with the principal investigator, Nobel Prize winner Prof. Sam Ting of MIT.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden just announced that Endeavour will be displayed at the California Science Museum following her retirement from active flight service upon landing.

President Obama last visited KSC on April 15, 2010 and gave a major policy speech outlining his radical new human spaceflight goals for NASA. Obama decided to cancel NASA’s Project Constellation ‘Return to the Moon’ Program and the Ares 1 and Ares 5 rockets. He directed NASA to plan a mission for astronauts to visit an Asteroid by 2025 and one of the moons of Mars in the 2030’s. Obama also decided to revive the Orion crew module built by Lockheed Martin, which is now envisaged for missions beyond low earth orbit (LEO), and invest in development of new commercial space taxis such as the Dragon spacecraft by SpaceX for transporting astronaut crews to the ISS.

Spokesman Beutel said that during the April 2010 visit, “The President met with space workers.” He could not comment on details of the president’s plans for the STS-134 visit and said information would have to come from the White House.

The last time a sitting president watched a live human space launch was in 1998 when then President Bill Clinton attended the blastoff of the return to space of Astronaut and Senator John Glenn. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth back in 1962. Glenn’s first flight took place a little over a year after the historic first human spaceflight by Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961- which occurred exactly 50 years ago last week.

Congresswoman Giffords is recovering from her wounds and Shuttle Commander Kelly has said that she would like to attend the STS-134 launch. But no official announcement about her attendance has been made by NASA and depends on many factors including decisions by the doctors treating her in a Houston area hospital.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and Nobel Prize Winner and Principal Investigator Sam Ting of MIT - inside the Space Station Processing Facility at KSC. The STS-134 mission of shuttle Endeavour will deliver the AMS to the ISS. The AMS purpose is to try and determine the origin of the Universe. . Credit: Ken Kremer
Close up of Endeavour crew cabin, ET, SRB and astronaut walkway to the White Room. Credit: Ken Kremer

11 Replies to “President Obama to Attend Endeavour’s Last Launch on April 29”

  1. Can’t wait to see Capt. Kelly blast off and will wait to hear the twin sonic booms of his safe return. Nobody down wants to see either of them there, slashing NASA budgets to spend on class warfare programs. I haven’t met a Navy man yet that likes this guy. What was this whole thing Muslim outreach Obama was talking about with NASA, in this vets view we’ve been handling the outreach just fine and we got plenty of more Muslim outreach to give before NASA has to do anything.

  2. Those Navy flyboys on the birdfarms just love to reach out and touch some bad boy Muslims. I don’t know anyone in any branch who likes this guy.

  3. Given how often they have to cancel at the last minute, I can’t help but wonder how this’ll pan out.

    Do they dare call the launch off with the president waiting?

    I usually think you/we’ve become too afraid of failure, but I’d hate to see another shuttle lost because someone wanted to show off.

    1. There will likely be a lot of pressure to get off the ground on time. I hope they can resist if needed. I am pretty sure I remember Cheney giving ‘too much pressure’ as a reason that Bush was not attending once.

      1. Those men had class and understood how things worked, I miss them and don’t sleep well at night anymore. I enjoyed hearing that during the 2000 presidental inauguration Marine One pilots refused to fly former President Clinton to Dover do to weather, as the motorcade drove him to Andrews, they buzzed him. The one finger salute.
        Maybe a delay do to something down range, alternate airport weathered in. Wait until this guy clears the airspace and restart the count down.

      2. – With a few high profile exceptions such as former Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Private Bradley Manning (the Wiki-leaker), today’s professional military are politically neutral. Something to do with the unified chain of command.

        – FWIW, the future of “out reach”, in the military sense you used, is increasingly being handed off to UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles). This includes naval aviation, for example, the “Ike” (USS Eisenhower CVN-69) is scheduled to trial carriers ops with the navy’s new X-47B unmanned bomber. One mouse-click = take-off, another mouse-click = land. Eventually, the need for remote piloting by humans will be deleted as well. However “out reach”, in the NASA sense came up during an interview given by the administrator, Gen. Charles Bolden, following an overseas tour rather than from the WH.

        Getting back to the article, the CINC’s second visit to KSC demonstrates continuing interest in NASA, offers recognition and gratitude to United Space Alliance employees who worked on the Space Shuttle and support for Congresswoman Gifford and her family. All good. If 500,000+ other families attend, it will be a fitting send off for STS-134. Let’s hope for clear skies.

  4. “Congresswoman Giffords is recovering from her wounds and Shuttle Commander Kelly has said that she would like to attend the STS-134 launch. But no official announcement about her attendance has been made by NASA and depends on many factors including decisions by the doctors treating her in a Houston area hospital.”

    It was announce today, that she would. Apparently they say she can speak simple sentences and can take a few steps. She, too, is worthy of the attention.

  5. I have never seen a shuttle launch but would love too. Must be nice to have the tax payers flipping the bill for the first family’s trip to the launch. Im sure many Americans would love to be able to go see one of the last shuttle launches, but they can barely afford the gas to get back and forth to work let alone a trip to Florida.

  6. I dunno. . . this idea of the President attending the launch feels like he’s rubbing NASA’s nose in the matter. “I cancelled all your plans for human spaceflight, so I guess I can deign to come watch the very last shuttle launch.” He’s not considering going because he WANTS to see a space shuttle launch, but because he thinks it’ll show that he does indeed support the Administration he’s slowly starving to death.

    There are so many Americans who would truly love to see this historic launch, a bittersweet moment so few will get to enjoy in person.

    Godspeed to Commander Kelly though. And I do hope Congresswoman Giffords will be well enough to see her husband launch.

    1. Must be a security nightmare for Hussain because think all the NASA people he is putting out of work. Heard it’s destroying Brevard County. Is the first wookie also attending?

  7. NASA announced as of 9:32:07 a.m. CDT today, that the Endeavour’s launch is on target for the scheduled departure. “Space shuttle’s external tank is fully loaded with more than 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in preparation for today’s launch.”

Comments are closed.