CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Space shuttle Atlantis, carrying a crew of four and food and other supplies critical for the International Space Station, is set to vault into orbit on Friday on the final flight in the 30-year US shuttle program.
The liftoff is expected to draw as many as 750,000 tourists to sites near Atlantis' seaside launch pad, as they jostle for a final glimpse of NASA's workhorse spacecraft rising atop its trademark tower of smoke and flames.
They may need to stick around for the weekend. Meteorologists on Wednesday pegged the chance for an on-time launch at just 30 percent due to rain, clouds and thunderstorms.
The 12-day mission to the space station is among the most mundane of any of the 134 that have preceded it. It is seen largely as an insurance policy in case commercial delivery firms hired to resupply the station starting next year run into technical problems with their the new rockets.