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Top Morning Stories April 29, 2011

A lightning storm moved over the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center where Endeavor is set to blast off at 2:47 pm CST.
Photo by NASA
A lightning storm moved over the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center where Endeavor is set to blast off at 2:47 pm CST.

Endeavor Ready To Blast Off One Last Time

The space shuttle Endeavor is ready for its final launch this morning. It will be watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators. Among them will be the first family and Gabrielle Giffords, the wounded congresswoman who's married to the shuttle's commander.

CNN reports that four spacewalks are planned for this mission.

The space walkers will retrieve experiments, install new ones, refill tanks and lubricate parts at the International Space Station. In its cargo bay, Endeavour will carry the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. At $1.5 billion, it is the most expensive piece of equipment a space shuttle has ever carried.

This is the final trip before Endeavour's retirement, and it's the second-last mission of the 30-year space shuttle program.

CNN will offer live coverage of the shuttle launch, scheduled for 2:47 pm CST.

Comptroller To Pay For Free Credit Monitoring

If you were among the 3.5 million Texans whose personal data was exposed by the Texas Comptroller's office, you can apply for free credit monitoring and restoration services. Comptroller Susan Combs struck a more apologetic tone in her interview yesterday with KUT's Ben Philpott.

Combs now says she takes full responsibility for the data exposure. Some of her initial comments had criticized the way agencies sent the data to the comptroller's office. Today she says, "We're the last door. We're it. And as head of the agency, I am responsible."

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Austinite Survives Alabama Tornado

An Austin woman attending the University of Alabama rode out the onslaught of killer storms that struck Tuscaloosa on Wednesday. KVUE spoke to her by Skype.

Aquifer District Declares Stage II Drought

The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District board of directors declared a stage II alarm drought at their meeting last night, KEYE reports.

The drought declaration affects authorized water use by some 60,000 groundwater users primarily in northern Hays, southern Travis, and western Caldwell counties.   The Lovelady Drought Indicator Well, in the Edwards Aquifer and located in South Austin, dipped below its Alarm threshold of 175.0 feet depth-to-water on April 24. 

Drought conditions are classified as "extreme" in Central Texas by the US Drought Monitor.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.