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Once Endeavour is safely in orbit, then the emotions will sweep over the launch team, Spaulding said. For now, “they are focused on doing their jobs, they try not to let things overwhelm them … they try to stay grounded as much as they can.”

Atlantis will follow at the end of June with one last trip, then that will be it. All three shuttles will head off to museums to be viewed by the public.

By Thursday morning, spectators had set up tents and campers along the Indian River in Titusville, a spot that offers an unobstructed view of the launch pad.

Clint Kelly and his mother drove from Springdale, Ark. He pitched an orange tent in the bed of his pickup truck, parked between two campers on the Indian River. He paid $20 a night for the spot along the river which was roped off from other motorists with orange tape.

“It’s kind of like a big barbecue,” said Kelly, 31, a public school maintenance worker. “Everybody is real friendly because we’re all here for the same thing.”

Christina Cook of Cape Coral camped out in an RV with husband Tim and some friends at Cape Canaveral.

She planned to awaken at 6 a.m. to watch the royal wedding because she watched Charles and Diana’s wedding. But Tim, she said, will snore right through it. Tim often wakes in the middle of the night to watch meteor showers and even the white dot of a shuttle fly overhead. But the royal wedding, he said, isn’t worth it.

Hotels in the area were full, and restaurants stocked up to serve the anticipated crowds.

“Shuttle launches are absolutely great for business,” said Lauralee Thompson, owner of the Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant in Titusville. She expects her business to more than double on Friday.

This will be Endeavour’s 25th journey in 19 years _ it’s the youngest of NASA’s shuttles.

Kelly and his crew savored the view from atop the launch pad Thursday, in a quick visit.

“Endeavour is beautiful!” astronaut Mike Fincke said in a tweet. “Big shout out to those men & women who worked on her!”


AP writers Seth Borenstein and Mike Schneider contributed to this report.


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