On Monday morning Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her family looked on as the Endeavour space shuttle, headed up by Mark Kelly, was launched for the last time at Kennedy Space Center.
Before the launch commander Mark Kelly stopped preparations to make a speech with some inspiring and patriotic remarks. He said "It's in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop. To all the millions watching today, including our spouses, children, family and friends, we thank you for your support." This will be Kelly's last space expedition.
The Endeavour will travel to the International Space Station before it is retired to a Los Angeles museum. On its final journey the shuttle will be delivering $2 billion particle physics experiment along with spare parts to the station. The mission is expected to take 16 days.
Gabrielle Giffords along with Kelly's two daughters, parents and his twin brother travelled to the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday. Giffords was shot in the head on January 8, in Tucson, Arizona. Her recovery has been so remarkable that her doctors have approved her to travel twice to Cape Canaveral.
No photographs or footage of Giffords have been released and she was shielded from the cameras once again, as were the families of the other five astronauts who have now taken off on the Endeavour. Giffords and Kelly said their goodbyes face to face on Sunday.
Gifford's staff updated her Twitter saying "Who's ready for the best show on Earth?"
It is estimated that up to 45,000 guests crammed into NASA's launch site. Outside the gate were hundreds of thousands viewers waiting for the launch.
It took over six million pounds of thrust to launch the Endeavour into orbit at speeds of over 19,000 miles per hour.
Former NASA astronaut Tom Jones told Fox News "It's incredible how you can see this machine hurled into space like the fastest fastball ever thrown, going to Mach 25 -- 25 times the speed of sound -- and it's an incredible race to orbit…It's one of the greatest physical sensations an human can experience."
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