NASA delays shuttle

The 25th and final flight of shuttle Endeavour will slip 10 days to April 29, clearing the way for the previously scheduled launch of a robotic Russian space freighter and its arrival at the International Space Station.

The high-profile shuttle mission, commanded by the husband of critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, coincidentally will take place the same day as the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

"Somehow I don't think that factored into (shuttle launch date) planning," said Allard Beutel, a spokesman for NASA's Kennedy Space Center. "It is what it is."
Endeavour and six astronauts aim to deliver a $2 billion cosmic ray detector that could shed new light on the origin, evolution and fate of the universe.

There has been a high level of human interest in the mission because Giffords, who was shot in the head during a Jan. 8 assassination attempt, is making a remarkable recovery and hopes to attend the launch.
The launch had been slated for April 19 -- a Tuesday. It's being retargeted for April 29 -- a Friday.
Beutel still expects large crowds at KSC and at popular public launch viewing sites across Florida's Space Coast.
"I'm pretty sure we'll probably have more people show up to cover the launch -- and definitely more people coming to the area to witness the launch -- now that it's moved to a Friday," Beutel said.

"It's an afternoon launch. People can take a half-day off. If we slip, we've got the weekend (to make additional attempts). I think that will probably factor into people's plans."
NASA already has received 1,200 requests from journalists who intend to come to KSC to cover the launch.

The Endeavour launch is scheduled at 3:47 p.m. EDT.
The shuttle slip will enable the previously scheduled April 27 launch of a supply-laden Russian Progress cargo carrier. It is scheduled to arrive at the station April 29.

NASA had hoped the Progress could launch as scheduled and then loiter in the vicinity of the station until Endeavour's crew could complete their mission and depart the outpost. The Progress, however, is carrying time-critical science experiments, so loitering was not an option.
NASA and its Russian partners require two to three days between the arrival and departure of different vehicles at the station.

To accommodate the changed shuttle schedule, United Launch Alliance shifted its planned launch of an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force station to May 4.

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