HOUSTON — The four astronauts assigned to NASA's last space shuttle flight can't seem to escape all the fuss and hubbub.
With just eight days until Atlantis blasts off, the astronauts said Thursday they're still getting last-minute requests. Relatives, acquaintances and special-interest groups are all clamoring for launch tickets. And just about everyone wants the astronauts to take something of theirs on the last shuttle ride.
"People are procrastinators, right? You've always wanted to go see a shuttle launch, and all of a sudden, it's the last one," astronaut Sandra Magnus said in an interview. "But it's really nice to see all the enthusiasm."
At a news conference, commander Christopher Ferguson said there's so much hoopla surrounding this last mission that he can't wait to go into quarantine today. Shuttle crews always take up residence at Johnson Space Center in Houston a week before liftoff to avoid germs.
Ferguson and his crew will fly on the Fourth of July to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where they will remain in quarantine. Liftoff is set for 11:26 a.m. next Friday for the 12-day delivery mission to the International Space Station.
Ferguson said he'll use the peace of quarantine to gather his thoughts, take some notes and do all the things that got lost in the excitement of the mission.
The commander said even though the 30-year shuttle program is ending, he's not hoping for any launch delays that would stretch it out.
"Eight days away, it just sounds so final," he said in response to a reporter's question. "We're ready. We're trained."
Co-pilot Douglas Hurley said the astronauts have the easy part, sitting on the rocket and launching. "It's real tough on your family and friends," he said.
Atlantis' journey to the space station, with a full load of food and other supplies, will be the 135th shuttle flight.