National

Shuttle cleared for Monday launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —NASA unanimously approved a Monday morning launch attempt for the space shuttle Endeavour, after reviewing all the repairs for an electrical problem that grounded the next-to-last shuttle flight two weeks ago.

The flight to the International Space Station will be led by commander Mark Kelly, the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded during a January shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz. She was present for the first launch attempt, and is to be on hand for this one as well.

Mission management team chairman Mike Moses said Saturday he is confident the repairs took care of the electrical short and blown fuse that prevented a string of heaters from turning on during the first launch attempt on April 29. A thermostat with an exposed wire was replaced, as was a switch box with a blown fuse.

"In our minds, we are good to go," Moses told reporters.

Forecasters put the odds of good weather at 70 percent. The main concerns are stiff crosswind and low clouds.

"Looks like we r flying !!!" astronaut Mike Fincke said in a Twitter update late Saturday afternoon.

Launch director Mike Leinbach said an estimated 500,000 spectators are expected to jam area roads and communities in advance of Monday's scheduled 8:56 a.m. launch. That's more than the crowd for Discovery's final launch in February, but far short of what was anticipated for Endeavour's launch attempt on April 29.

President Obama and his family were among those who traveled to Kennedy Space Center last month hoping to see a launch. He met with the astronauts and visited with Giffords, but won't return Monday.

As before, the Arizona congresswoman will remain off-limits to the public and even most space center employees. Five other members of Congress will also attend.

Kelly and five other veteran astronauts are assigned to the 16-day flight. They will deliver a $2 billion particle physics detector as well as critical space station spare parts.

Atlantis will close out the 30-year space shuttle program with a July flight.

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