For the better part of eight years, I worked at the Science Museum of Minnesota's Omnitheater and enjoyed every minute of it! One of the early films I watched likely hundreds of times was Blue Planet, a film that was recorded in cooperation with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Besides the incredible views from space that literally wrapped around the audience offering a 3D effect, the film discussed the impact humans are having on the planet. Over the years I've recalled that film and never thought I'd actually cross paths with NASA.
As a member of the first-ever NASA Launch TweetUp for the STS-129 Space Shuttle Atlantis launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2009, I was incredibly honored to be selected. I recall how well-prepared NASA was in advance and on-site. Having orchestrated space exploration, it was clear the philosophy of prepare for everything, even the unexpected, runs deeper than just the flight teams. They timed out all of our activities from hearing from scientists and experts to various surprises sprinkled throughout the day, including meeting the first astronaut to tweet from space Mike Massimino ( @Astro_Mike) and being allowed a photo op in the flame trench which was very close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis resting on the launch pad!
The second day was all about the actual launch. After an early dawn drive across a never-ending bridge to Merritt Island and some giddy tailgating, the official bus brought us to the press area next to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and with immediate access to the launch clock. NASA had a great tent facility (the closest location people are allowed to be during a launch) with all the utilities we Space Tweeps needed and more. Much of the time during the launch progression, including a three hour delay, was spent with guest speakers and several photo ops. We were fortunate to wave to the astronauts as they were spirited past us to the Shuttle in the silver NASA van. Finally, once it was time to count down the last seconds, we selected our spots near the countdown clock to watch (and feel) the incredible sight. It was truly a thunderous experience.
In 2014, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will launch three Earth-observing missions to study the Earth and its climate. NASA JPL is a federally funded research and development center that focuses on robotic exploration of the solar system and also conducts Earth-orbit missions. As part of their program, NASA JPL has invited about 100 space enthusiasts for two days of programs, tours and much more. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with scientists and engineers, participate in hands-on demonstrations, meet fellow space enthusiasts as well as members of NASA's social media team. The event also includes behind-the-scenes tours of JPL, including the Spacecraft Assembly Facility, the JPL Earth Science Center, the Mission Control Center of NASA's Deep Space Network and the JPL Mars Yard. I am very happy to say that I have been invited to the event! I got an insider's view into NASA JPL and shared the experience via social media and in follow up blog posts: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Recent Earth Now Event and The Ultimate in Recycling: Parts and Ideas.