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No shuttle launch Monday, Giffords returns to Houston

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No shuttle launch Monday, Giffords returns to Houston

Congresswoman plans to watch when lauch rescheduled

The space shuttle Endeavour will not blast off Monday, NASA announced Sunday morning.

"No launch date will be announced today, but Endeavour will not launch sooner than May 8," the agency said on Twitter.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to a rehab center in Houston, said her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin.

"Team Giffords had an easy flight back to Houston today. Gabby will have a couple days of good therapy with Angie, Lisa, Kelly, Dawn and the wonderful crew at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Then back to FL for the launch!," said a post on Giffords' Facebook page.

Giffords had traveled to Florida to watch her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, command Endeavour on its final mission.

Crew members also flew to Houston on Sunday morning, they said on Twitter.

The crew will "stay in quarantine back in Houston," a NASA official said.

A failed heater in a hydraulic system forced NASA to cancel Friday's launch, which had been set for 12:47 p.m. Tucson time.

"Based on the amount of time needed to do the fix, a new shuttle launch attempt will not happen before the end of the week, at the soonest," NASA tweeted Sunday.

Giffords met Friday with President Barack Obama and his family, who were in Florida to watch the postponed launch, her spokesman confirmed.

"Congresswoman Giffords is disappointed that Endeavour was unable to launch today, but realizes that mission safety must come first," Karamargin said just after the launch was scrubbed.

"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.

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 a Friday press conference.

Crew members, including Kelly, were on the way to the launch pad when NASA decided to postpone the flight.

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.

Giffords still in rehab after shooting

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.

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.

Arrangements for Giffords' care while in Florida have been made with NASA, her doctors said Monday.

Giffords did not travel with a doctor, Karamargin said.

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 then.

"She wants to attend. She's been looking forward to this for a long time," he said.

Launch delayed before

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.

Accused faces 49 federal charges

In March, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was charged with 49 federal counts in the Jan. 8 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 competency examination in Missouri.

Loughner will likely face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said.

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