Codel to attend shuttle launch; House leaders to stay home

The top four lawmakers in the House will not be in the audience on Friday for the launch of the historic final mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

But Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and President Obama will be joined by a congressional delegation and 150 tweeting fans.

Spokesmen for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told ITK Tuesday that their bosses would not attend the launch.

“The Speaker offers his best wishes to Mark Kelly and the rest of Endeavour’s crew for a safe and successful mission, and to Rep. Giffords for continued recovery,” said a Boehner spokesman.

Kelly is Giffords’s husband and the mission’s commander, and the trip will mark the first time Giffords has attended a public event since she was gravely injured in a shooting in Tucson, Ariz., in January. Giffords is not expected to appear publicly, however. Kelly recently told Newsweek that her first appearance in public is months, not weeks, away.

Despite the lack of House leaders, a congressional delegation to Florida will be led by House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas), and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) is expected to join the trip. A spokesman for the committee declined to cite more names due to security concerns.

The timing of the Texas lawmakers’ visit to NASA might be a bit awkward. Texas-sized tempers flared earlier this month after the space agency director announced that none of the retired shuttles would be housed in Houston, aka “Space City.” Hall, for one, was “extremely disappointed” in the decision.

VIPs won’t be the only folks on the launch-pad Friday: NASA invited 150 Twitter users, representing 43 U.S. states and nearly a dozen foreign countries. Together the tweeters have more than 3.7 million followers, which should offer a nice Twitter boost to the more than 1 million who follow NASA’s feed.

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