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Next shuttle skipper tweeting away

In this YouTube video, Endeavour commander Mark Polansky solicits video

questions that he intends to answer from space next month.

Atlantis spacewalker Mike Massimino made a splash with his Twitter updates from orbit, but from now on, those orbital tweets are likely to become routine. The commander for NASA's next shuttle mission, due to visit the international space station next month, has been posting 140-character updates for weeks.

"The next shuttle crew is known as 'prime crew,'" Endeavour commander Mark Polansky (a.k.a. Astro_127) observed after Atlantis' landing today. "I'd be < [less than] human if I didn't admit to being psyched about that!"

Polansky, who heads the STS-127 mission to install the final components of Japan's Kibo laboratory module, began using Twitter about a month after Massimino (Astro_Mike) did, on May 7. "This is my 1st time twittering, and I hope it will be fun," Polansky said at the time.

He's already attracted almost 13,000 followers. That's not quite in the range of Massimino's 344,000-plus ... but give him time.

Endeavour, which was held on standby to come to Atlantis' rescue if necessary, is currently scheduled for launch no earlier than June 13. Polansky has been posting updates through normal Twitter channels as he and his crewmates finish up their training for the mission. Once the mission launches, his tweets will likely be passed along indirectly through NASA, as Massimino's were.

Polansky has set up a YouTube video channel for taking questions from orbit, and he's already decided which question he'll answer first: "What's the best thing about being in space?" (The second one will be, "What happens if you fly into a black hole?") The questions and answers will be broadcast via NASA TV during the mission.

In one of today's tweets, Polansky said he can guess how Atlantis' crew members feel now that they've landed.

"Bittersweet," he said. "Trained for years & had a great mission. Literally on top of the world, but now it's over."

It may be over for Atlantis, but it's just starting for Polansky and his crewmates.