Tag Archives: STS-132

Hanging with Space Tweeps

One of the best parts of a #NASATweetup is getting the chance to meet such great people from all around the country and the world. Usually around the tweetup, there are informal get togethers where tweeps just hang out and talk. These events range from breakfast at a local restaurant before the event to dinner and drinks at a local wine bar. Usually, the tweeps are joined by some of our NASA hosts, sometimes also NASA and contractor folks who are on twitter, but couldn’t join us for the tweetup.

The chance to sit down and have informal conversation with the people who make our space program happen. At the STS-132 JSC #NASATweetup, our after event was a truly amazing experience. We sat for hours on a porch on a hot Houston night and talked space with astronauts, flight controllers, trainers, public affairs folks, tweetup organizers, and our fellow tweeps. I learned firsthand that that the people who make our space program happen are space geeks just like me. We saw an ISS flyover and a HST flyover. It was wonderful!

I’ve loved the three tweetups that I’ve participated in because I’ve learned so much about our NASA, our manned space program, our unmanned space program, and many other things. I love meeting space tweeps because I learn about what drives people to love exploration. Hanging with space tweeps has made me realize what makes our nation great.

Hanging with space tweeps has also given me some great experiences that I never would have otherwise had. The day after the STS-135 JSC Tweetup, I visited Space Center Houston with @absolutspaceguy, @lynnvr, & @omaflinger. While there, we met Apollo 7 Astronaut Walt Cunningham, who was touring with his family. Col. Cunningham was kind enough to take a picture with us and to sign an Apollo 7 patch.

After that I enjoyed lunch with @lynnvr, & @omaflinger and saw a tweet by @waynehale saying he was on the JSC site signing copies of the book Wings In Orbit. I wasn’t able to get on Site, so I tweeted him and asked if it would be possible to meet him offsite. He was amenable, so we met at the Starbucks across the street from JSC.

We talked to a bit and he mentioned that a lot of NASA folks visit this Starbucks. He headed off to finish his day. Several minutes later, I noticed a man coming in to Starbucks who looked a lot like 4 time shuttle flyer and STS-125 commander Scott Altman. It was indeed him, and he was kind enough to sign my book and let us take a picture.

All in all, hanging with Space Tweeps is awesome!

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#reverb10 – December 9 – Party

Today’s #reverb10 prompt reads as follows: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)

After a day touring the Johnson Space Center as a part of the STS-132 JSC #NASATweetup, most of the participants gathered at the Chelsea Wine Bar along with our NASA hosts, and some special guests. It was an awesome experience to say the least. We were a group of people brought together by a common interest, enjoying each other’s company, and learning from each other. We were out on a beautiful deck overlooking the water with a superb view of the sky. The weather was perfect: warm, but not hot, very little humidity. When we arrived, it was light, but the light soon faded. After it got dark, we watched the International Space Station with the Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to it fly over us, followed by a fly over of the Hubble Space Telescope. We were lucky enough to be joined by four astronauts Mark Kelly (@ShuttleCDRKelly), Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly), Stephen Robinson, and Dan Burbank.

One of our NASA hosts, Lucie Delheimer (@LucieD_inthesky) sponsored a NASA Acronym contest. The challenge was to compose a full sentence using nothing but NASA acronyms. Those who know me, know that I am a big fan of acronyms. I entered the contest with three others. Astronauts Steve and Dan were the judges and I was ecstatic that they picked my entry (ET TLM I/F BIT REOD) as the winner. (I’ll take guesses in the comments as to the meaning of the sentence.)

I met people I never would have met otherwise, from all parts of the country, different backgrounds, and different professions. However, the differences didn’t matter. We were a collection of space geeks brought together in a celebration of space geekery, it was truly awesome.

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#reverb10 – December 7 – Community

Today’s #reverb10 prompt reads as follows: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

This year, I’ve become part of two communities, one online and one offline. Membership in these communities has taught me a lot and reminded me of some things that I already knew. The online community I joined is that of the so-called space geeks (many of whom are members of the Space Tweep Society). I’ve always been interested in space, space travel, and the space program. I will always remember where I was and what I was doing on January 28, 1986 when I found out about the Challenger Disaster as well as where I was on February 1, 2003 when I found out about the Columbia Disaster. These two events affected me tremendously, the latter occurring after I had grown into adulthood, changed the way I think about life. The Columbia Disaster, occurring during the internet age, changed my awareness of the space program and its accessibility to me.

Currently, the Space Shuttle program has two missions left. The the beginning of 2010, that number was five. After talking to my wife and thinking on it for a long time, I decided that I was going to go see a launch while there were launches left to see. I picked the STS-131 mission, set to launch in March and talked to some friends who I thought might be interested in going. We were all set to go in March to see the launch, then there was a cold snap in Florida, which delayed processing, which in turn delayed the launch to April. My friends were not able to join me on the launch, but I decided to go anyways. My experience with that launch is well documented. I wrote a blog post in May about my experience and my December 3rd #reverb10 post focused on my experience at the launch. After seeing this launch and feeling a part of a community while in Florida, I sought out a community online of people who were also interested in space. What I found was far beyond what I expected. Online, I’ve met people from all parts of the United States and across the globe who share my interest in space. These meetings online have turned into friendships. My participation in #reverb10 was sparked b reading about it on a fellow Space Tweep’s blog. My participation in this community was further heightened in May when I was lucky enough to get chosen by NASA to participate in the STS-132 #NASATweetup at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. (My blog entry about that experience).

The community of space geeks is a great one because members range from folks like me, who are removed from the space program, to NASA employees and contractors. Though many of the Space Tweeps know much more about space, rockets, and all associated with the subject than I do, they are willing to answer questions from me and my fellow tweeps. It’s really an egalitarian group, of which I’m proud to be a member.

The offline community I’ve become a member of came about through the Moms’ group my wife joined just after my sone was born in 2008. AT the beginning, it was solely a Mom’s group and the one time I tried to stop in, it was clear that I was an interloper. However, starting in the fall of 2009 and continuing into 2010, we became a families group. The Moms of the group still do their thing, but the families get together and play, share stories and have a lot of fun. I’ve particularly gelled with one of the Dads in the group and we’ve become friends, which is a hard thing for me to do.

2010 was a year of change for me and joining these communities helped me handle the change well!

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#reverb10 – December 1 – One Word

Check out reverb10.com for an interesting challenge. Blog on a specific prompt each day for the month of December. Their description of the process is:

Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. The end of the year is an opportunity to reflect on what’s happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead. With Reverb 10, we’ll do both.

So, I’m going to give it a try. I’m hoping for the follow through to complete the project, but I reserve the right to skip days or stop all together.

So, starting a day behind, I’m working on the prompt for December 1st, which is: One Word: Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)

2010: Change – This year has been a year of change for me personally and professionally. My family changed as our son went from one to two years old and we found out were expecting a second child. I changed because I took the opportunity to knock a couple of things of my bucket list specifically regarding space. Attending the STS-131 launch and the STS-132 #NASATweetup at JSC. These were both wonderful experiences for me and have helped me become a part of a wonderful community of space geeks.

Professionally, the leadership of the organization I work for has changed massively in the past year. Having been stable for a long time, several of our senior managers left and I was promoted into senior management. The new job is great but it takes a lot of getting used to. Also, we didn’t backfill my old position, so I’m dealing with trying to do a new job while continuing to do parts of my old job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky to have a job in the first place, so I’m not complaining.

2011: Growth – In the past year, With the exception of the space geekery, I’ve pulled in on myself. I’ve used the change as a reason to make my life smaller and that has had consequences for my health. I’d like 2011 to be a year of growth for me, my family, and my life.

Ok, one prompt down, thirty to go… Thanks to @saroy for leading me to this project!

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Social Media = Connectivity

I’m continually amazed by social media and how it can connect people across the globe. Today, I had a couple of experiences which showed me just how connected the world is.

In May, I attended a NASA Tweetup at Johnson Space Center in Houston during STS-132, which was an amazing experience.  During our Q&A with Astronaut Jeff Williams (@Astro_jeff), who has spent almost a year on the ISS, one of my fellow tweeps attending the event (@KateKligman) asked one of the best questions put to an astronaut that I’ve ever heard. She asked, “What SciFi invention would you like to have had with you during your time on the ISS?” Jeff’s answer was, “Beam me home for the weekend, Scotty.” Since then, that question has rattled around my head.

NASA held tweetup today (on its 58th birthday) in Washington, D.C. Astronaut TJ Creamer (@astro_tj) attended and gave a great presentation. Incidentally, I was watching the tweetup on my iPhone via a live stream. During the Q&A, Kate’s question popped into my head and I wanted to get it asked to TJ. So, I sent an Twitter DM to Beth Beck (@bethbeck) who was one of our NASA hosts at JSC asking her if she would ask the question for me. She did and TJ’s response, after telling us his impressive SciFi credentials was a Star-Trek like communicator.

So,using my cell phone, I was watching an event that was taking place 3000 miles away and was able ta ask a question and hear the response. How awesome is that?

This evening, I was watching Spacevidcast during an interview with James Dewar, who just wrote a book about the US Nuclear space program and how it could be applied today. I had a question (whether the radiation from a nuclear spacecraft would interfere with communication) and posted it in the chat room, several other people indicated they thought it was a good question, and the hosts put it to Mr. Dewar. He rephrased my question much more elegantly than I put it in the first place and answered it. It was awesome…

Why do I mention these experiences? Because they would not have been possible without social media and the internet. It’s a chain link effect, which I won’t  list out here, but without social media I wouldn’t have event know about either the tweetup or spacevidcast.

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STS-132 Tweetup at Johnson Space Center

I was one of the lucky 100 to be picked to attend the STS-132 NASA Tweetup at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. For those who don’t know, a tweetup is a gathering of Twitter users, usually folks who are interested in a particular subject. In this case, our common interest was human space flight. Ours was a dedicated group of space geeks, each paying our own way to Houston to participate. We were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the home of human space flight, ranging from Mission Control to the NBL, SVMF to the Saturn V.

To say the least, I was excited. More to the point, I was so excited I only slept for four hours the night before the event.

Arriving at Space Center Houston (JSC’s Visitor Center) at about 0800, I saw a bunch of folks waiting out front. Walking up, I was pleased to begin meeting my fellow space tweeps. I know everybody thinks Twitter is used exclusively by teenagers, but the attendees were folks of all ages and walks of life. We had people from many different states as well as the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, India, and Sweden. In my book the travel award went to the folks who drove 27 hours straight to be there, participated in the days events, then turned around and drove straight back to their home in Utah. Sure, I cam in from the Bay Area for the day, but their trip was true commitment.

Headed in to the auditorium where our day was to begin, I got to play with a space suit glove and a sample of tile from the Space Shuttle’s Thermal Protection System. At that point, I was in heaven, but the day was going to get even better. I took a front row seat and plugged in my computer. I brought a power strip and several fellow tweeps joined in using the electrons it supplied.

Before the program began, we had the chance to ask questions via twitter to Astronaut Ron Garan (@Astro_Ron). He was gracious and funny. We were lucky to get to spend this virtual time with him. He’s since flown to Russia to train for his upcoming mission to the ISS.

After the traditional welcomes from NASA, including John Yembrick (@yembrick) and Ellen Ochoa, Deputy JSC Director and former astronaut, we got under way. Our first presentation was on the Shuttle and Station’s Ku-Band communication system. Two days prior, two astronauts had put a spare Ku-Band antenna on the ISS, so it was a fitting start. Those who know me have heard me complain about presentations on space not being technical enough, focusing on broad topics rather than getting in to the nitty gritty. This was not the case with our lead off presentation. The powerpoint was filled with flow charts and diagrams and was the detailed information I am always looking for. Seeing this, I felt the latitude to ask my geeky, technical questions all day, and was very pleased to do so. This was an incredibly great thing for me. Also, I was very proud of my fellow tweeps, because we asked many questions that were answered with a, “I can’t go in to that.’ Our presenter was trying to hide anything, we were just asking questions that were very technical…

Next up was Astronaut Jeff Williams (@Astro_Jeff), who ended his six month stint as ISS commander in March. He’s spent just about one year in space on two trips to the ISS. He was scheduled to spend 45 minutes with us, but ended up spending an hour and a half. He started with a 20 minute video, which he narrated for us, then took questions. Some of the questions were about living in space, some were about being an astronaut, some were technical, and some were about space policy. He answered all with humor and grace.

Because Jeff spent so much time with us, we had a short lunch break and then boarded our buses (a tram in my case) to head to Mission Control. We entered Building 30 and headed to the White Flight Control room, where they control shuttle missions. We took our seats in the viewing room and were greeted by Ed Van Cise (@carbon_flight) one of the ISS Flight Directors. I was in heaven. Visiting Mission Control had always been a dream for me and was amazing. Ed gave us a little background and then answered our questions. He gave us a tour of the control room, telling us the purpose of each console and how they worked. He talked to us about the history and culture of flight control. I was in heaven. I had always wanted to visit Mission Control. I was looking down on the flight controllers actively guiding a shuttle flight in progress.

I got to meet Holly Griffith (@absolutspacegrl), who I’ve followed on twitter for a while. She spent her whole day with us, even though she had to go to work in flight control at 1800. She answered questions and gave us the inside scoop, it was awesome.

After the White FCR, we headed to FCR 2, which is where the latter Gemini, all of the Apollo, and early shuttle missions were controlled from. I sat in the Flight Director’s seat where Gene Krantz sat during the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. I held the “Oh Shit” handles on the consoles. I was in heaven. Ed gave us some more history and we then were free to roam and take pictures. It was great to spend some time in this historic room. I could have stayed in that building all day, if not longer. Alas, we had to head out.

Our next stop was the Space Vehicle Mock Up facility, where the astronauts train in live size mockups of the ISS and Shuttle. It was amazing to be there. Some of the folks from an earlier JSC Tweetup (STS-130) got to crawl around in the mockups, but there were astronauts training when we were there, bah 🙂 Astronaut Stephen Robinson talked to us while we were on the shuttle side of the building. Steve talked to us about training, his flights to space, and what its like to be an astronaut. It was awesome to talk to him in particular because he’s the only astronaut in the history of the program to do a repair on the heat shield of a spacecraft (STS-114). He described that experience to us in detail, which was cool.

We then headed over to the ISS side of the building and were greeted by Clay Anderson (@Astro_Clay) who I watched launch into space on STS-131 in April. Clay is a smart and very funny guy. He told us about his shuttle missions and his time on the ISS. He walked us around the various parts of the station, showed us the Soyuz mockup and talked to us about living in space. He’s proud to say that he has used the restroom in three different space vehicles (Discovery, Atlantis, and the ISS) and gave us some great trivia (the orbiter is as long as the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk). Gettint to meet clay was especially awesome because I saw in launch on STS-131. As I said in my post about that experience, it is something that I will never forget.

From there we went to the Neutral Buoyancy Facility, where they train underwater for space walks. It’s a giant pool, 200 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 40 feet deep. There are 6.5 million gallons of crystal clear water in that pool. As it was 90 degrees outside with about 60% humidity, I wish I could have taken a quick swim. The last person to do so without permission was a drunk Russian diplomat. Needless to say it was not allowed.

After the NBL, we headed back to Space Center Houston and hit the gift shop.

In the evening, a smaller group met up at a local restaurant. We hung put and talked about our day. Our conversations were highlighted by a love of space and an enthusiasm for exploration. We were lucky enough to be joined by four astronauts Mark Kelly (@ShuttleCDRKelly), Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly), Stephen Robinson,  and Dan Burbank. It was great to talk to these guys on a one on one basis and they were gracious enough to let us get some pictures as well. There were several highlights of the evening, in no particular order:

1. One of our NASA hosts, Lucie Delheimer (@LucieD_inthesky) sponsored a NASA Acronym contest. The challenge was to compose a full sentence using nothing but NASA acronyms. Steve and Dan were the judges and I was ecstatic that they picked my entry (ET TLM I/F BIT REOD) as the winner. I’ll take guesses as to what it stands for in the comments.

2. At 2038, the ISS and Atlantis did a 6 minute flyover. It was so amazing to see the station and shuttle together flying over head after spending a day learning about how they’re supported on the ground.

3. Shortly thereafter, the Hubble Space Telescope flew over as well. HST has alwys been a favorite NASA project of mine, not only because of its amazing scientific prowess and discoveries, but for the effort that we as a nation put in to developing and repairing this wonderful asset.

All in all, it was a wonderful day, filled with excitement and pure joy. I’m going to talk about what the visit meant to me in another entry, but I’ve been working on this one for a couple of days now and want to get it posted.

Thanks to all of our NASA hosts for putting this wonderful event on. I know I’m forgetting some, but here’s a try anyway @yembrick, @bethbeck, @LucieD_inthesky, @absolutspacegrl , @txflygirl, @GodspeedDiscvry, @schierholz, @Carbon_Flight, @amikokauderer, and many more.

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