CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- After a poignant wake-up song requested by Gabrielle Giffords for her astronaut husband, Endeavour and the two other space shuttles each marked milestones yesterday for the retiring fleet.
In its first full work day in space for its last flight, Endeavour's commander Mark Kelly and his crew conducted their final post-launch inspection for damage to the shuttle heat shield -- a routine procedure started after the 2003 Columbia disaster.
Back at the Kennedy Space Center launch site, Atlantis, which will fly the final shuttle mission of the 30-year program, moved for the last time from its hangar to the massive Vehicle Assembly Building. And Discovery, which flew its last mission in February, had some of its remaining toxic fuel drained from its smaller engines. It will go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum hangar outside Dulles Airport in Washington.
In orbit, Endeavour was catching up to the International Space Station, aiming for a 6:16 a.m. docking Wednesday. Endeavour's day started with the traditional music wake-up call. The song: "Beautiful Day" by U2.
It's the same song Giffords picked for Mark Kelly in 2006 when they were dating. This time the lyrics seemed to have a special meaning, given the congresswoman's recovery from a gunshot wound to the head Jan. 8 in Arizona. U2's Bono has said the song is about a man who has lost everything but finds joy in what he still has.
This time the song was from Giffords and Kelly's two daughters. "It's good to be waking up in space again," Kelly radioed back. "I want to thank Gabby, Claudia and Claire for that great wake-up song." -- AP