Shuttle poised for launch with Rep. Giffords on hand

With wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on hand to watch, the space shuttle Endeavour is poised to give the work week a roaring and historic start today, overcoming wiring problems that grounded it last month.

Giffords’ arrival Sunday afternoon included a quick fly-by of Endeavour on the launch pad. Then she bid husband and shuttle commander Mark Kelly goodbye at the bucolic beach house used by shuttle crews before launch.

“Gabrielle is excited for tomorrow’s launch. Do you plan to see history in the making?” her staff tweeted. Later, her staff added: “Gabrielle & Mark said goodbye during visit before launch. Beach House made for picturesque setting.”

NASA officials said conditions couldn’t look much better for the scheduled 8:56 a.m. launch today.


Pakistan rejected bin Laden tip, ex-Afghan agent says

Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief says he knew Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan four years ago, but Pakistan’s leaders rejected his claims.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Amrullah Saleh said Afghan intelligence thought bin Laden was in the Pakistani city of Mansehra — about 12 miles away from Abbottabad, where the terrorist leader was eventually found and killed by U.S. Navy SEALs.

Saleh has become a prominent critic of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban. He said Pakistan should be recognized by the United States as “a hostile country.”

He told CBS: “They take your money. They do not co-operate. They created the Taliban. They are number one in nuclear proliferation.”


Mars experts huddle about site for next rover mission

After years of poring through images from space and debating where on Mars the next NASA rover should land, it comes down to four choices.

Scientists in the close-knit Mars research community get one last chance to make their case this week when they gather before the team running the $2.5 billion mission that will soon suggest a landing site to NASA, the ultimate decider.

Location is everything when it comes to studying whether the red planet ever had conditions that could have been favorable for microbial life. The upside is that all four candidates are relatively free of dangerous boulders and other hazards that would pose a threat to rover Curiosity upon landing. The size of a mini Cooper, Curiosity is scheduled to launch in late November after a two-year delay.