In a 40-minute plea at the White House to save the US space shuttle, John Glenn said that relying on the Russians to get US astronauts into space was a mistake. Why did President Obama turn him down?
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama once remarked that America’s space program had become so uninspiring the space shuttle missions scarcely qualified as news. He could not have foreseen the drama attending the twice-delayed launch of the shuttle Endeavour. As many as half a million people crowded the beach roads and byways around Cape Canaveral to watch the stubby space plane push through the morning sky, an awesome spectacle of rocket power, before disappearing into orbit for its rendezvous with the International Space Station.
For months, the mission’s most captivating angle has been the parallel saga of Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman whose husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, is Endeavor’s commander. Giffords’ attendance at the launch has been a key goal of her rehabilitation process, as she recovers from the grave brain injury inflicted by a Tucson gunman in January. According to a person close to the Giffords-Kelly family, her trip Sunday from the rehab hospital in Houston to Cape Canaveral was partly choreographed by Scott Kelly, Mark’s twin brother and fellow astronaut, and handled like a military mission, complete with the deployment of decoy vehicles, to avoid the press. A similar routine was used last month for Giffords’ first foray to the Kennedy Space Center, but the launch was canceled due to technical problems. President Obama, who also came for that launch, didn’t return for this one.
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