CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — It looks as if 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.
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.
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.
In addition to the tweeps, more than 40,000 guests gathered around the space center to view Friday's launch.
"I hope I can feel the ground move and the hairs on my arm stand up," Mauria Ellenson of Minneapolis, Minn., said in advance 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 Space.com. "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."
The lucky attendees watched the launch from a spot at Kennedy Space Center near the historic countdown clock, nicknamed the "tweet tent." The group arrived on Thursday and had the chance to meet astronauts and NASA officials. They also took a behind-the-scenes tour of the launch complex.
Many tweeps said they felt especially fortunate to be viewing one of the last three planned shuttle launches ever, and the final scheduled flight of Atlantis.
"I've wanted to see a launch since I was a kid," said Jonathan Smith of Lafayette, Ind. "When I heard it was retiring, I thought, 'I've got to get here.'"
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