Video: Space shuttle Endeavour lifts off for last time

  1. Closed captioning of: Space shuttle Endeavour lifts off for last time

    >> center after a two-week delay, the space shuttle "endeavour" took off for the last time with mark kelly in the commander's seat and his wounded wife watching on the ground. tom costello is at the kennedy space center tonight. good evening.

    >> reporter: a windy one at that. gabby giffords ' staff said she's still not fully aware of everything that happened in tucson in january, but she's very aware of her husband's mission and she was determined to be here for it.

    >> three, two, one. zero, and liftoff for the final launch of "endeavour."

    >> in typically spectacular fashion, it roared off the pad just past 10:00 , breaking through cloud cover and racing for a rendezvous with the space station . these dramatic photos taking by a passenger in a commercial plane in the air at the time. waunching the launch from a private viewing area at the cape, shuttle commander mark kelly 's wife, gabby giffords , still recovering from a head wound suffering in january's shooting rampage in tucson. her chief of staff was with her.

    >> she turned to me said and, good stuff. i said, yeah, this is good stuff. this is like, finally, we have arrived at his launch date.

    >> reporter: moments before liftoff, he spoke to the millions cheering on his crew.

    >> including our spouses, children, family and friends, we thank you for your support.

    >> reporter: once the shuttle was in orbit, mark kelly delivered tulips to giffords on behalf of mark and roses to his two daughters. meanwhile, he sent a handwritten note to be read by giffords when he was in space.

    >> the fact that gabby was able to come down here speaks to the triumph of good over evil. and just her resilience and her dedication and motivation is an example that the country ought to try to follow.

    >> reporter: "endeavour's" 24th miz will deliver spare parts to the space station . on the nearby roads and beaches, half a million spectators gathered to witness "endeavour's" final mission and a story of love, dedication, and triumph. sxoo every one of the crew members on board is wearing one of these in space. it's a bracelet that says peace, love, and gabby. and mark kelly has taken into space gabby's wedding ring , and she has his on earth. and finally tonight, brian, an update from gabby giffords ' staff. her next major medical hurdle will be to replace a portion of the skull that was taken off in january during the tragedy. back to you.

    >> beautiful evening down at the

By
updated 5/16/2011 8:38:11 PM ET 2011-05-17T00:38:11

Manny Kariotakis got goosebumps watching the last launch of Endeavour, even though the space shuttle disappeared behind clouds seconds after blasting off from the pad 10 miles (16 kilometers) away.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators joined Kariotakis on Monday, witnessing Endeavour's last launch and the second-to-last mission before the space shuttle program ends.

"We're part of history!" said Kariotakis, a 50-year-old day care owner from Montreal, while viewing the liftoff on U.S. 1 in Titusville.

But it was a smaller turnout than the crowds that viewed the last shuttle launch in February and Endeavor's failed launch attempt in April. Blame the early morning hours: Endeavour blasted off at 8:56 a.m. February's launch and last month's attempt were in the afternoon.

"With the launch being so early, it's going to deter people from coming here," said Tom Summers, 48, who hawked shuttle T-shirts, caps, mugs and medals in front of a trailer in the dark, early hours.

Projections had put Monday's crowd at 500,000, more than the number that saw shuttle Discovery's final hurrah in February. Assistant Police Chief John Lau guessed the crowd at between 350,000 and 400,000.

The last shuttle launch is slated for July.

Traffic on Monday was nowhere near what it was in February when spectators sat for hours on the roadways between Cape Canaveral and Orlando, turning highways into parking lots.

"There was never any backup," said Sgt. Kim Montes of the Florida Highway Patrol "I never saw any stoppage."

For retired snowbirds Shirley and Jerry Goulet, Endeavour's liftoff was worth a wait. They had come out last month to see Endeavour off and were disappointed when an electrical problem kept it grounded for another two weeks. They postponed their return to New Hampshire to see the liftoff from U.S.1 on the Indian River.

"We enjoy the excitement of cheering on the astronauts," said Shirley Goulet, 73. "Not as many people get excited about it anymore but we are."

Added Goulet: "To actually feel the launch when you're across the river is something else."

It was the first launch for 4-year-old Jolie Hodges and her 2-year-old brother, Jonah. Their mother, Samantha Hodges, tried to explain to them the concept of space and showed them photos of the astronauts and Endeavour from NASA's Facebook page. But they were still having trouble getting their minds around the idea.

"They say it's a spaceship and I tell them we're going to watch a spaceship," said Samantha Hodges, of St. Augustine. "They're so little, it's hard for them to understand."

Stan Oliver purchased a last-minute ticket from Ohio to Tampa on Thursday, and then drove Sunday night to Titusville. Oliver, who manages an assisted-living residence, slept in his car overnight.

"This is a once in a lifetime event," said Oliver, 41, who lives near Dayton. "It was worth it. The roar was intense. I'm glad I came."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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