Giffords travel plans unknown after shuttle launch scrubbed
The launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, set to blast off on its final mission, has been postponed by NASA.
It will launch no earlier than Monday at 11:33 a.m Tucson time, the agency announced via Twitter.
It's unknown if U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at Cape Canaveral to watch her husband blast off in command of the shuttle, will stay in Florida until the ship launches.
"Endeavour’s launch has been scrubbed for at least 48 hrs because of an issue with Aux Power Unit 1 heaters," NASA said earlier.
The earliest the could launch is now Monday morning Tucson time, when the next window for launch is open, but could be as late as Wednesday.
Giffords met with President Barack Obama and his family, who were in Florida to watch the launch, confirmed her spokesman.
"Congresswoman Giffords is disappointed that Endeavour was unable to launch today, but realizes that mission safety must come first," said C.J. Karamargin.
"Launch delays are not uncommon with the space shuttle," but Giffords and her staff are looking forward to Endeavour's launch, he said.
"The congresswoman was pleased and honored to have met with the president and First Family," Karamargin said. "Her travel plans at this time are undetermined."
Friday's launch was scrubbed after the heaters on one of Endeavour's power units failed about four hours before liftoff.
"There was no point continuing with the countdown," said launch commentator George Diller. "The external tank has to be drained to be able to do some electrical testing."
The heaters on "the system we use to generate hydraulic power" failed to come on during testing, said Mike Moses, the launch integration manager for space shuttle program, at an afternoon press conference.
Crew members, including Capt. Mark Kelly, the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were on the way to the launch pad when NASA decided to postpone the flight.
Crew members will remain in quarantine while NASA decides when the launch will take place, said Robert Cabana, the director of the shuttle program.
"Their families will stay with them, they'll have some time together," he said.
Giffords is "enjoying her time in Florida and her time with Mark," Moses said.
Obama, who spoke at a Tucson memorial service for the victims of the Jan. 8 mass shooting, met with Giffords for about 10 minutes prior to meeting with the crew of the shuttle, the White House said.
The 134th space shuttle mission is to be the next to last flight for the program.
Endeavour will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a device built to search the universe for dark matter and antimatter, to the International Space Station.
The mission is to include the last-ever scheduled spacewalk by a shuttle crew.
Check back for updates.
Watch a live feed of the countdown and launch of the space shuttle Endeavour.
The shuttle will be commanded by Capt. Mark Kelly, the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Lift-off is scheduled for 12:47 p.m. Tucson time on Friday.
Giffords, recovering from a Jan. 8 shot to the head, made the trip from a Houston hospital to Florida to watch the launch.
Giffords' doctors confirmed Monday that she has is "medically able" to make the trip.
President Barack Obama is expected to watch the shuttle launch with the families of the shuttle crew.
Giffords' transportation to Florida was provided by NASA, which which provides transportation to and from all shuttle launches for all astronaut spouses,said her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin on Tuesday.
Giffords will return to Houston to continue her rehabilitation shortly after the launch, he said.
Karamargin and Giffords' chief of staff, Pia Carusone, are sticking to a game plan that emphasizes the congresswoman's privacy as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head.
Giffords will not meet with the media or issue a statement while she is in Florida, Karamargin said.
"The congresswoman, like other spouses and family members, will watch the launch in private," Karamargin said. "There are no plans to release photos of the congresswoman watching the launch. It is possible that photos of the scene will be released, but that will not be known until the day of the launch."
After the launch, Carusone and Karamargin plan to hold a press conference to discuss the event and Giffords' reaction to her husband's latest mission, he said.
The Endeavour launch was delayed from April 19 because Russia plans to send an unmanned cargo rocket to the International Space Station on April 27. NASA did not want the shuttle docked at the space station when the other ship arrived.
Giffords, a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, attended Kelly's most recent launch when he commanded the space shuttle Discovery in 2008.
Kelly's upcoming mission is scheduled to be the last flight for Endeavour and the next-to-last space shuttle flight before the fleet is retired later this year. Shuttle Atlantis will blast off on the final shuttle mission in July.
Giffords still in rehab after shooting
Giffords is still recovering from a gunshot to the brain suffered in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt at a Jan. 8 meet and greet with constituents. Six were killed and 13 wounded in the mass shooting, including Giffords.
She was moved to a Houston rehab facility two weeks after being wounded. Doctors have said her recovery is "remarkable."
Giffords is "doing remarkably well," her husband said at a NASA press conference last month.
"She's improving every day," Kelly said. "She's starting to walk, talk more, more every day."
"She's starting to process some of the tragedy, that we all went through in January—she's going through that as we speak," he said.
"Despite that, she remains in a very good mood."
"As one of NASA's biggest supporters in Congress, she was really looking forward to having the opportunity to be (at the launch)," Kelly said.
"She wants to attend. She's been looking forward to this for a long time," he said.
Arrangements for Giffords' care while in Florida have been made with NASA, her doctors said Monday.
Accused faces 49 federal charges
In March, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was charged with 49 federal counts in the attack. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf by the court.
Fourteen of the charges Loughner faces could result in the death penalty, if the prosecution seeks it. No decision of whether to ask for capital punishment has been made, authorities have said.
Loughner was returned to a Tucson prison this week, after undergoing a compentency examination in Missouri.
Loughner will likely face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said.