CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? It looks like the space shuttle Atlantisnow has its own groupies. More than 150 Twittering space fans gathered atNASA's Kennedy Space Center here on Friday to watch Atlantis' final voyage.
It was NASA's second launch "tweetup," a meetingfor NASA fans on the microblogging site Twitter. The attendants came from 30states, including Alaska, and places as far away as England, the Netherlands,and Puerto Rico.
"This is definitely a dream come true," saidSultana Ali, of Orlando, Fla., of the chance to watch a shuttlelaunch in person. "I've died and gone tospace nerd heaven," she tweeted later under the name @globalsultana.
Many space fans also plan toattend the science fiction Nebula Awards, which are being presented thisweekend in nearby Cocoa Beach. The organizers scheduled the awards for Thursdaythrough Sunday to coincide with the STS-132 shuttle launch.
Atlantis is slated to blast off Friday at 2:20 p.m. EDT(1820 GMT) from the seaside launch pad here. The countdown is on track and theweather is expected to cooperate. In addition to the tweeps, NASA isexpecting 39,000 guests at the space center to view the launch.
"I hope I can feel the ground move and the hairs on myarm stand up," said Mauria Ellenson of Minneapolis, Minn., predicting whatit might feel like at the moment of liftoff. "The experience is aonce-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
More than 1,000 people applied for the roughly 150 spotsavailable at the tweetup.
"Here at NASA, we think we have some pretty spectacularthings to communicate with the public," NASA spokesman Mike Curie told SPACE.com."In the modern era of social media we have the opportunity for directcommunication. We're finding there's great interest in what NASA isdoing."
The lucky attendees will be watching the launch from a spotat Kennedy Space Center near the historic countdown clock. The group arrived onThursday and had the chance to meet astronautsand NASA officials. They also took a behind-the-scenes tour of the launchcomplex.
Many tweeps said they feel especially fortunate to beviewing one of the last three planned shuttle launches ever, and the finalscheduled flight of Atlantis.
"I've wanted to see a launch since I was a kid," saidJonathan Smith of Lafayette, Ind. "When I heard it was retiring, Ithought, 'I've got to get here.'"
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SPACE.com is providing complete coverage of Atlantis'STS-132 mission to the International Space Station with Senior Writer Clara Moskowitzin Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Managing Editor Tariq Malik based in New York. Click here for shuttlemission updates and a link to NASA TV.
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Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the Space.com team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.