Over the course of NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle program, many millions of people from around the world witnessed a Shuttle launch live in Florida. Families and friends camped in public parks, people flocked to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Astronaut Hall of Fame, tourists joined established tours to the NASA Causeway, and native Floridians simply stepped outside or took their boats/other watercraft out on launch day. People even managed to view Shuttle launches from Florida’s marvelous beaches, Disney World in Orlando, cruise ships in Port Canaveral, or even the occasional commercial airline flight! Of course, members of the world’s press corps, dignitaries, and other special guests experienced Shuttle launches from much closer, the closest being Kennedy Space Center’s launch complex 39 press site located just 3.1 miles from the Shuttle launch pad(s).
Since mid-November 2009, thanks entirely to NASA’s social media savvy and commitment, over seven hundred members of the public were lucky enough to have this unique, life-changing opportunity to experience a Shuttle launch from the press site via NASATweetup events. I was one of those incredibly fortunate people for two Shuttle flights (STS-129 & STS-135) and they are moments I will cherish forever. I am deeply indebted to NASA’s social media team, including Beth Beck (@BethBeck), Veronica McGregor (@VeronicaMcG), Stephanie Schierholz (@Schierholz), and John Yembrick (@Yembrick), for these experiences; it’s a debt so great I fear it can never be fully repaid, but that doesn’t dissuade me from trying! Since my first experience as a NASATweetup attendee in November 2009, I’ve committed to “pay it forward” by ensuring everyone knows about upcoming and in-progress NASA Social activities, the history of NASA Social & NASATweetup, and how to plan and make the most of the experience when selected to attend (via the NASATweet.com community wiki.) Do you want to know the best part, though? I’m not alone, not by a long shot! There’s a vibrant and helpful NASATweetup Alumni community always at the ready to assist the next “class” of NASA’s social attendees.
As of July 31, 2011, NASA has held 23 unique NASATweetup events, and two more are about to begin: the Juno mission‘s Atlas V rocket launch NASATweetup begins August 4, and the GRAIL mission‘s Delta II rocket launch NASATweetup follows on September 7. NASATweetup events are not limited to spacecraft launches, so be sure to follow @NASASocial on Twitter and watch the official NASA Social page on NASA.gov for announcements of future NASA Social events!
Resources for organizations, small businesses, or other entities wanting to learn from NASA’s success:
- “Using tweet-ups, NASA stokes the public’s interest” by Matt Wilson (Ragan.com)
- “NASA, Tweetups, and Space with Stephanie Schierholz” (Better at Marketing Podcast)
- “How NASA Uses Social Media to Connect” presented by Stephanie Schierholz