National

May 14, 2010 1:37 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Astronauts ready, big crowd awaits launch

The biggest launch-day crowd in years is anxiously awaiting the last planned liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis. Only two missions are left after this one as NASA retires the shuttle fleet.

More than 40,000 guests have descended on Kennedy Space Center. VIPs on the list include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, second man-on-the-moon Buzz Aldrin and David Letterman.

Six veteran astronauts are strapped in and set to ride Atlantis toward the International Space Station at 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time. There's nothing standing in their way as far as weather or technical issues are concerned.

The crew was fortified by a substantial breakfast. Three of the men had medium-rare steaks and french fries.

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