The Washington Post

Shuttle launch crowds flock to Florida


Hundreds stand on a dock on the Indian River to watch the final launch of the space shuttle Discovery on Feb. 24. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The penultimate space shuttle launch of NASA’s Endeavour is expected to draw huge crowds, as well as President Obama and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), to view the launch.

About 400,000 folks turned out for the last liftoff of shuttle Discovery in February, Space.com reports, and the number is expected to rise to about 700,000 for this launch. Obama will be attending with his family, the first time a first family will watch a launch together. He will also stop by the storm-ravaged Southern states before heading to Florida. Giffords, who is recovering from a January shooting, will be in Cape Canaveral to watch her husband, Mark Kelly, take off as commander of the flight.

For fans of the shuttle program, the flight will mark a historic moment. It will be 134th time a shuttle launches into space, and the second to last time a shuttle will launch under NASA. The Atlantis mission in June will be the last flight. The Endeavour flight will transport a $2 billion particle detector called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the international space station.

Already, visitors headed to Cape Canaveral are tweeting about their trips south. Will you be one of the 700,000 camped out down there to see the shuttle launch? If so, tweet us @washingtonpost with your photos or send us updates about the visit to wpblogpost@gmail.com.

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