The Countdown to the Endeavour's Last Mission

At 3:47 pm EST the space shuttle will blast off from Cape Canaveral

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Update: Due to technical glitches, the space shuttle launch has been delayed at least for the day.

Today, at precisely 3:47 pm EST, the space shuttle Endeavour will blast off from its Cape Canaveral launching pad for the final time. Confirmed guests for the made-for-cable event are President Obama, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and a smattering of VIP's including Florida governor Rick Scott, numerous members of Congress and visiting dignitaries from at least nine other international allies.

Crowds at the event could top 700,000 and rental car companies and hotels have had to scramble to meet tourist demand for what's been billed as the "world's largest tailgate party." Much of the today's attention, however, will be lavished on Gabby Giffords who's seeing off her NASA commander husband and making her first appearance at a public event since she was severely injured by a shooter in January.Yesterday, the first grainy footage of her enroute to the event already set off a mini-media frenzy.

As far as the mission itself, the six man space shuttle crew will steer the Endeavour to the International Space Station, where it will provide service to the ISS and experiment with a $1.5 billion dollar Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The device is intended to capture almost incomprehensible things like particles of "dark matter" and "anti-matter" for future research.

As the countdown to the space shuttle launch commences, here are a few of the most recent images that caught our eye:

Lightning storms at Cape Canaveral on the eve of the Shuttle launch:

A fisheye lens view of the Kennedy Space Center on April 28th:

The shuttle as it's being unveiled in the early morning hours of April 29th:

The crew posing together on April 26th (commander Mark Kelly is third from the left):

The a day-time shot of the launching pad on April 27th:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.