It’s New Year’s Eve, a day many people reflect on the year that’s drawing to a close. As I try to do that, however, I am transported to November 2009 as the starting point of my “year”. Why? In November 2009, I achieved a lifelong dream of experiencing a Space Shuttle launch in person at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. I never thought I’d see the Space Shuttle stack with my own eyes, much less witness a launch from the press site just 3 miles away. So many things I never thought I would experience happened during my first NASA Tweetup trip that I still struggle to put the experience into words today, these thirteen months later. Humbling. Life-affirming. Majestic. Inspiring. Indescribable. Compelling. Uplifting.These words, even in sum, do not adequately express how I felt during my time in Florida for the STS-129 NASA Tweetup. Perhaps the most accurate (albeit embarrassing) account of my experience remains the emotional video I posted just 24 hours after the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. The video, far better than any words I’ve written on the topic up until now, explains the depth of my appreciation.
What is a NASA Tweetup (now called NASA Social)?
A meetup of Twitter followers is known as a tweetup. NASA periodically organizes and hosts a NASA Social (formerly NASATweetup) at a NASA center and/or event. Due to the popularity of these meetups, attendance is limited to a randomly selected group of NASA’s Twitter followers who register during the tweetup’s registration period. NASA Tweetup registration periods vary, with the shortest (24 hours) applying to launch tweetups like the one I attended in 2009. Most other NASA tweetups, such as those held at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., have registration periods of from 2 to 5 days.
To learn about upcoming NASA Tweetup events, be sure to follow @NASAsocial on Twitter. Also, watch the #NASASocial hashtag on Twitter search for great NASA and space conversation even in between NASA Tweetup events!
Caution: May be Habit Forming!
After attending my first NASA Tweetup (STS-129 at KSC), I was hooked! In January 2010, registration opened for the first-ever NASA Tweetup held at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. Commonly known to the public as Mission Control – Houston, JSC is the home of NASA’s human spaceflight training, research and mission control operations. Since JSC is just several hour’s drive from my home in San Antonio, Texas, I registered with enthusiasm and hoped for the best. This tweetup was held during Space Shuttle Endeavour‘s STS-130 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), and I was again blessed to have my name selected as an attendee.
I admit I had some trepidation that, having already experienced a launch tweetup, any future NASA Tweetup experiences might fall short. I quickly learned that fear was unfounded. My STS-130 NASA Tweetup experience again brought me closer to our nation’s space program than I ever hoped to get as an ordinary citizen. Every NASA Tweetup is unique in terms of what attendees get to experience and explore, and I can confirm this from personal experience, having been lucky enough to return to JSC for the STS-133 NASA Tweetup on November 10, 2010. Even without Space Shuttle Discovery on orbit for the tweetup, as originally planned, my brother (my registered tweetup guest) and I got an insider’s view of the work going on at the space center.
The consistent feature of all NASA Tweetup events is the inspiring and passionate group of people, from NASA employees and contractors to fellow NASA Tweetup attendees, each one brings together. Sharing time with subject matter experts and fellow space enthusiasts has been, without fail, the most valuable and meaningful takeaway from my NASA Tweetup experiences.
Where to, Now?
I have always been a passionate space enthusiast, but I have not always had access to a community of like-minded people (Space Tweep Society). I am now unapologetically “addicted” to NASA Tweetups, but finances, time and fairness to others prevent me from registering for every single one . Through the wonders of Twitter and websites such as Spacevidcast, however, I have been a “virtual participant” at numerous NASA Tweetup and related space enthusiast gatherings, such as SpaceUp San Diego, SpaceUp DC and the (repeated) launch attempts of STS-133. In February 2011, I will be attending SpaceUp Houston and I hope to see you there!
My life has been greatly enriched as a direct result of the community and opportunities NASA has made possible through its NASA Tweetup endeavors. The past “year” (13 months, in my case) inspired me to create this website so I could write more than 140 character updates about my interests related to spaceflight and space exploration. I hope you’ll stick around and add your comments!
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Happy New Year!
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