I have been neglecting to write about my many experiences from my NASATweetup and NASASocial experiences. First, as a refresher a NASASocial is an event where individuals involved in social media apply, and are randomly selected to participate in an experience at a NASA Center (it differs from place to place, but I’ll explain that in a bit). Often times this involves getting the VIP tour at that center, meeting astronauts, and doing things that the general public doesn’t get to do.
I have been to several different events, below is a list of them, followed by a brief summary of each event.
- STS-130 JSC Mission Tweetup, May 2010
- GRAIL NASATweetup, September 2011
- Wallops NASASocial, October 2011
- SpaceX COTS 2+ (2/3) NASASocial, May 2012
I could write on and on about the different events, their impact on my life and the cool people I’ve met. So I’ll be brief with a summary of each one, and what I vaguely remember from each one.
During the first event I was really impressed to see what mission control was really like. Everyone sees the different views of mission control of TV and in movies, but being able to be in the observation deck and see operations going in in front of me was impressive. At the time there were several spacewalks going on to replace a part of the International Space Station (ISS) that had failed. This was the beginning and my introduction to Twitter and the power of the platform.
During the second event the tweetup for the GRAIL mission this was my first launch tweetup after being met with “we’re sorry you haven’t been picked for the Space Shuttle tweetup” many times. I was so excited to get close to a launch vehicle. We were introduced to many of the main program scientists, the principal investigators, and a few “science celebrities” (such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jim Adams). In between the presentations we were treated to a tour of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the general area of Kennedy Space Center. Then we saw the rocket launch from KARS park.
For my third event, which was the first of the rebranded NASASocial events we were given a tour of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. We were given an up close tour of the many different things that go on at this facility. They launch sub-orbital research rockets, and also launch orbital vehicles in cooperation with Orbital Sciences. They do high-altitude balloon programs and education and public outreach. It was interesting to see how they do almost all of their stuff in house. They design, fabricate, build, test, verify and launch their rockets on site. The do control systems and software for these rockets. They design and build high-altitude balloons and sometimes help build the science payloads that go on these “launch vehicles.” It was really impressive to see them doing so much without replying on outside contractors to do a lot of work. After that we were given a tour of the Horizontal Integration Facility that is used by Orbital Sciences and their Antares Rocket.
For my last NASASocial event I attended the SpaceX Falcon 9 COTS 2+ (COTS 2/3) mission at Kennedy Space Center. This event was punctuated with meeting many with the NASA Commercial Program office, Gwynne Shotwell the President of SpaceX, and other members of various teams around Kennedy Space Center. We were then treated to seeing the launch at the KSC Press Site. However, this launch wasn’t without its issues, and had a three day delay.
While this is just a brief overview of the events, more information can be found below. And it is impossible to mention all of the people I have met and formed lasting friendships with, it just amazes me how these events bring together people who are so interested in spaceflight in its various forms. As a result of meeting some of these people I have become involved in several project that are extremely worthwhile for outreach, such as RocketSTEM and SpaceUp Houston.
You can find more information about these various events and how to sign up at the official NASASocial page and at a community owned and operated Wiki page. And you can find me at my various social media outlets on the right.
Another thing worth mentioning that is extremely important. I will not be attending any more NASASocial events, at least not at the same NASA centers simply because part of the goal of this program is to share the experience with as many people as possible. So since I have participated in several of them my time has come to not take the spot from another person. Best of luck to any person who applies to them in the future, it is very well worth the expense of getting there.
Side note: NASA Public Affairs changed the name of the events from NASATweetups to NASASocials in order to include more social networks such as Google+ and Facebook.