Seeing Stars At Launch Site

They came by bicycle, auto, and RV.

They snapped up the choice spots along Florida roads and causeways, by the water with views of the launch pad 39B for John Glenn's historic shuttle flight Thursday.

They spread blankets, set up tents, and parked trailers along the roadside as they waited for days for the 2 p.m. EST liftoff.

"It's party time," said Kitty Grenier, who was selling Glenn commemorative coins along U.S. Route 1 on Wednesday night. "This doesn't happen too often in Titusville. It's kind of a sleepy place."

Roadways connecting the quiet communities surrounding the Kennedy Space Center, from Titusville to Cocoa Beach, turned into makeshift block parties. Vendors sold T-shirts, friends ate hamburgers and hot dogs from portable grills, and newfound neighbors shared cans of mosquito repellent.

The big draw was John Glenn, the astronaut-turned-senator who was returning to space after three decades at the age of 77.

Ready to watch launch (CBS)
"I think he is one of our great men that we can look up to today," said Marian Cooper of Arizona who started planning months ago for this extended vacation to Florida. "We don't have that many heroes anymore, and I admire him so much."

For Donna MacDonald of Winnebago, Ill., who was home raising a family when Glenn made his first flight into space, the Ohio senator is a symbol.

"I think age has no barrier," she said. "I'm 60 years old , and there are a few things I can't do - couldn't do when I was 20 - but there's still a lot of things I can still do. And that's the way John Glenn feels about it."

Information Please on the Space Age
NASA estimated that the number of spectators would top 1 million, crowding the beaches and the causeways leading to the space center. Among those high-profile celebrities in attendance were President Clinton.

NASA's 22-page VIP list included movie stars, members of Congress and some little-known celebrities such as William Kiewan, president of Ohio State University, and Mary Ellen Withrow, treasurer of the United States.

Published reports said Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio, action actor Brce Willis, and frequent shuttle watcher Tom Hanks, who made Apollo 13 and the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, were among the VIP's there.

The official VIP list had but one member of the Kennedy clan, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

And then there's Jimmy Buffett.

The singer is writing a story about the launch for Rolling Stone magazine.

"I love a great show. This is a great show. This is the circus coming to town, and it's great to see him do that," Buffett said. "We're launching from a Florida swamp and that's what I love about this."