First Family Slated To Attend April 29 Space Shuttle Launch

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NEW YORK — U.S. President Barack Obama and his family will attend NASA’s planned launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor on April 29, according to the White House.

“We are a White House agency — we always welcome a visit from the president,” NASA Kennedy Space Center spokesman Allard Beutel said April 20.

Obama last visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in April 2010 to make a speech about the new direction he was proposing for NASA. Obama canceled NASA’s Moon-oriented Constellation program in favor of human missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars.

Shuttle officials approved the launch plan April 19 after a day-long meeting called the Flight Readiness Review, or FRR, which allowed mission managers to discuss Endeavour’s mission plan in detail and consider any possible issues that might delay liftoff.

None being found, officials decided to move forward with the target date of April 29 at 3:47 p.m. EDT for Endeavour’s final blast off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. “The team was unanimous and we’re ready to go fly,” NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, said during a press conference following the meeting.

Endeavour is slated to carry six astronauts, a cargo bay full of spare supplies, and a $2 billion astrophysics experiment to the international space station.

Veteran astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), will command the mission.

Kelly had spoken of his hope that Giffords will be able to attend the launch in person despite the fact she is still undergoing rehabilitation at a Texas hospital after being shot in the head outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store in January.