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Space enthusiasts gather to watch final launch of space shuttle Atlantis

Organized via Twitter, some 150 enthusiasts gathered at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to witness the final planned launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

By Clara Senior Writer / May 14, 2010

In this image provided by NASA, THE space shuttle Atlantis is revealed after retraction of the pad's rotating service structure Thursday evening at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis is scheduled to launch Friday at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

Jack Pfaller/NASA/AP


It looks like the space shuttle Atlantis now has its own groupies. More than 150 Twittering space fans gathered at NASA's Kennedy Space Center here on Friday to watch Atlantis' final voyage.

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It was NASA's second launch "tweetup," a meeting for NASA fans on the microblogging site Twitter. The attendants came from 30 states, including Alaska, and places as far away as England, the Netherlands, and Puerto Rico.

"This is definitely a dream come true," said Sultana Ali, of Orlando, Fla., of the chance to watch a shuttle launch in person. "I've died and gone to space nerd heaven," she tweeted later under the name @globalsultana.

IN PICTURES: NASA's Space Shuttle

Many space fans also plan to attend the science fiction Nebula Awards, which are being presented this weekend in nearby Cocoa Beach. The organizers scheduled the awards for Thursday through 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 the weather is expected to cooperate. In addition to the tweeps, NASA is expecting 39,000 guests at the space center to view the launch.

"I hope I can feel the ground move and the hairs on my arm stand up," said Mauria Ellenson of Minneapolis, Minn., predicting what it might feel like at the moment of liftoff. "The experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

More than 1,000 people applied for the roughly 150 spots available at the tweetup.

"Here at NASA, we think we have some pretty spectacular things to communicate with the public," NASA spokesman Mike Curie told "In the modern era of social media we have the opportunity for direct communication. We're finding there's great interest in what NASA is doing."