Sweet Goodbye: Mark Kelly Launches in Space Shuttle as Gabrielle Giffords Watches


Space Shuttle Endeavour

The shooting, and the public attention that followed, brought astronaut Kelly a measure of fame that few modern astronauts have experienced, and which he never sought. He said he thought the focus should be on the mission, the upcoming end of the space shuttle program, and the $2 billion Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer Endeavour is carrying to the space station to explore the makeup of the universe.

Kelly does have five crewmates. His co-pilot is Gregory H. Johnson. There are three spacewalkers, Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke. The shuttle's robot arm is to be operated by Roberto Vittori, an Italian astronaut who works for the European Space Agency. They are scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Wednesday, and come home before dawn on June 1.

"It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore," said Kelly by radio to mission control before launch. "We must not stop. To all the millions watching today including our spouses, children, family and friends, we thank you for your support."

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