In just two days I’ll be enjoying one of the best birthday presents a guy like me could dream of: A backstage tour of Kennedy Space Center, a chance to meet key players in the Space Shuttle and ISS programs, Q&A sessions with Space Shuttle astronauts Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike), Douglas H. Wheelock (@Astro_Wheels), and Robert Crippen, and much more. And weather-willing, the trip will be capped by a chance to see the final flight of the Space Shuttle program as I and 153 other lucky #NASATweetup selectees watch the launch from the closest possible site, the press area a mere three miles from the launchpad.
Amusingly, our program also includes a visit from Elmo of @SesameStreet fame, as everyone’s favorite toddler Muppet interacts with @Astro_Mike as part of an educational program that’s being filmed during the Tweetup.
How to “Watch” the Tweetup
I feel honored an amazingly lucky to have been (randomly!) selected from over 5,500 applicants to attend the STS-135 #NASATweetup. As excited as I am about this, I’m of course sad that this is the last chance anyone will get to view a Shuttle launch. But even if you weren’t selected for the Tweetup, you can still share in the behind-the-scenes fun in a number of ways.A portion of the Tweetup will be televised on Thursday morning on NASA TV, which you can watch over the Internet at http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv and http://www.ustream.tv/nasatelevision. Starting at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 7, 2011, you’ll be able to view the Tweetup participants talking with NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier, followed by Elmo interviewing STS-109/STS-125 Astronaut Mike Massimino. And of course, you can also use that link to view the actual launch at 11:26 am EDT on Friday, July 8.And as you’d expect from a Tweetup, you’ll find tons of impressions, fun facts, pictures, and videos on Twitter! Here are some resources to follow:
STS-135 Launch – You can view all the posts from the 154 #NASATweetup selectees.
@NasaTweetup – the official NASATweetup Twitter feed, where you can also find out about future Tweetup opportunities for unmanned launches, lab tours, and more!
In addition to this blog, a number of other attendees will be blogging about the event as well. You view the full list at the NasaTweet.com Wiki.Finally, If you’re an Xbox 360 owner, you can get primed for the launch by checking out the “Celebrate the Space Shuttle” experience in the Spotlight channel on Xbox LIVE. Check out my blog entry over on Xbox.com for details!
I custom-designed a t-shirt, including my avatar and the awesome #NASATweetup logo created by the awesome artist Lar DeSouza, for next week’s Shuttle launch.
This is what I ordered:
THIS is what I received:
Do I really have to mention I am not amused by this?
I’ll refrain from posting the company’s name until I see how they handle the customer service issue. If they can get me the shirts I ordered by Tuesday, hey, mistakes happen, and no need to call them out.
Let’s hope… I’d just really, really rather wear the top shirt.
[Edit: Zazzle.com came through with a replacement shirt in just a couple of days. Phew!]
On July 8, 2011, it’s expected that over a million people will travel to Florida’s Space Coast to watch the final launch of the Space Shuttle program. I’m super-excited to be one of them, watching not from Titusville (about 13 miles away, where my son and I watched Atlantis launch in Nov. 2009), the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex (7.5 miles away, but with no direct view of the launchpad), nor the NASA Causeway (6.7 miles away, but only a lucky few thousand were able to get tickets.)
Along with just 151 other very lucky people, I’ll be watching the launch from the Press Area at Kennedy Space Center, a mere 3-ish miles from the launch pad. We’re guests of NASA, selected from over 5,500 applicants to attend the very last Space Shuttle launch #NASATweetup. The day before the launch, our group will get a special tour of KSC, including the chance to meet some of the folks who work on the Shuttle program, and hopefully some astronauts as well. Then, on launch day, we’ll be on the lawn with the countdown clock that you see on network launch coverage.
When NASA announced they’d be collecting names for a chance for the Tweetup, I set a reminder in my Outlook calendar to apply, but I never dreamed I’d be selected, particularly after hearing over 5,500 people had applied. So when I opened my e-mail on June 10 to see a message with “NASA Tweetup” in the title, my brain automatically filled in the “We’re sorry to inform you…” when I started to read the e-mail. But those words weren’t actually there. Instead, I saw this:
Dear Dennis Atkin,
Congratulations, you have been selected to attend the NASA Tweetup on July 7-8 for space shuttle Atlantis’ targeted launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida! The event will provide you the opportunity to speak with shuttle technicians, engineers, astronauts, and managers, and to experience the launch of space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station.
Once I caught my breath, I immediately went down the hall to inform my lead that I was going to need some unplanned vacation time! And to share my excitement with anyone who’d stand still long enough to listen. I think the only person who could have been moreexcited would have been my 10-year-old self, if I could travel back in time to tell him this would be happening. (Actually, my 10-year-old self would probably glare at me and respond, “WTF? You mean I’m not an astronaut when I’m 45?”)
I can’t express how enthused I am about this, nor how much I appreciate the opportunity NASA has given me here. It’s literally the opportunity of a lifetime. That it’s the last launch is somewhat bittersweet, of course, and there’s always the chance that a flight delay could cause me to miss the actual launch. But even the chance to tour KSC and meet the people who’ve accomplished so much in our space program will more than make the trip worthwhile. Not to mention the chance to hang out with the group of seriously fun, smart, and enthused fellow space nuts I’ve met virtually through our Facebook Tweetup planning group.
I was four years old Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It’s one of my earliest memories. I was at the babysitter’s house, and they quickly shot down my claim that I’d “seen this show before” when I tried to convince them to change the channel to a kid’s show. That was the start of my fascination with the space program, and I clearly remember raptly watching the later moon shots. Then came Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz, and then the triumphs and tragedies of the Space Shuttle program.
In 2009 I was in Florida with my then-six-year-old son when Atlantis was schedule to launch. We decided we had to at least try to watch the launch. We found an abandoned apartment complex parking lot on the water across the street from a Krystal, bought a bag of cheeseburgers, and sat down for a few-hour wait. I spent the morning setting his expectations for a probable delay, so that he wouldn’t be disappointed. I did a good job convincing myself as well, so when the countdown continued, we were both super-excited.
Here’s our very shaky video, shot with a Canon Elph pocket camera. I made a point not to look at the camera LCD while shooting—I wanted to actually see the launch—so apologies for the quality. There’s much better footage, but I’m glad I have this just because it captures our excitement, particularly after Carter actually spotted the Shuttle in the air.
My only disappointment is that I can’t bring Carter with me to share this. But with the group that will be there, I’m certain we’ll have hundreds of photos, hours of video, and lots of impressions to share with him and the rest of the next generation of space fans.