Friday, April 29, 2011

Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch Today

Check in over at AubreyJ's for updates and a live feed of today's launch, "Update on Upcoming Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-134 Mission."

And at Wall Street Journal, "Blastoff Obscures NASA's Troubles":
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Space shuttle Endeavour's scheduled launch Friday recalls sunny spectacles that marked NASA's former glory. But the sense of excitement surrounding the event masks the uncertain future of America's manned exploration program.

The launch is expected to be witnessed by a huge crowd, including President Barack Obama and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman wounded in an assassination attempt whose husband, Mark Kelly, commands Endeavour.

Lawmakers, contractors and leaders of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration continue to squabble over how to divvy up shrinking space budgets. And with the final shuttle countdown expected this summer, no consensus has emerged on how to meet the administration's goals of exploring an asteroid around 2025, and eventually sending astronauts to Mars.

"NASA's fundamental problem is a lack of clear-cut direction and goals," said Scott Pace, a former senior NASA official who now teaches at George Washington University. "The current path is a very risky one, and time is quickly running out to correct course."

Almost two years have passed since Mr. Obama roiled Congress and the aerospace industry by seeking to privatize many of NASA's core functions. Both critics and supporters of the agency worry it's embroiled in nagging political battles and increasingly seems out of touch with the deficit-conscious mindset of voters.
Keep reading at the link above. It turns out that Rep. Giffords chaired the House subcommittee overseeing NASA and she opposed the adminstration's space commercialization efforts. Plus, "Some officials now hope the personal drama surrounding Rep. Giffords and Mr. Kelly will rekindle public ardor for the agency's mission."

We'll see.

RELATED: "First Pictures of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Since Shooting, Walking on Her Own."