Tourists who pour into Florida for a firsthand look at the space shuttle are lifting the state's economy into orbit.
A record crowd estimated at 750,000 people gathered last Monday for the third launch of the Columbia. ''We had record days for Orlando's tourist attractions around the time of the launch,'' says Bonnie Manjura, tourism development director for the Orlando Chamber of Commerce.
Orlando is 50 miles from the Kennedy Space Center. Thousands of people jammed into the central Florida city's hotels during the days before the launch. ''A lot of people came down early for their vacations or stayed later to see the launch,'' she says.
The space center itself is a tourist magnet. It hosted more than 2 million visitors in 1981, 400,000 more than in '80, making it the fourth-most popular attraction in this attraction-packed state.