The president has declared a major disaster in Alabama and ordered federal aid to assist with recovery efforts.
In Florida, a pivotal swing state for Obama's re-election hopes, the president had been ready to act as cheerleader-in-chief for NASA's second-to-last space shuttle launch and for Giffords' encouraging if gradual recovery after she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz., in January.
Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, was commander of the scheduled shuttle flight, and the president had Mrs. Obama and their two daughters with him, the first time an entire presidential family had planned to view a launch.
Although the shuttle program was ended by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama has angered some NASA workers with his own space plans. He canceled Bush's proposed replacement for the shuttle program — a new mission to the moon — putting in its place vaguer plans for sending astronauts to land on an asteroid and ultimately Mars.
Obama wants private companies to pick up the shuttle's role of delivering payloads to the space station, an approach that is costing thousands of government jobs, including 2,000 contractors to be laid off after the final shuttle flight in June.
More than 500 employees lost their jobs earlier this month.
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