July 7, 2011.
NASA Tweetup Day 1.
Seriously, what else could get me out of bed before 5 a.m. AND with a smile on my face? Alison and I pulled out of Orlando loaded down with food, water, and bursting with excitement. The drive to the Space Coast is roughly an hour from Orlando, though it seems more like three with the NASA Tweetup anticipation. (Mommm….are we there yet???) As we pulled up to the Press Accreditation Building that sits just outside the employee gate at Kennedy Space, the emotion and reality of the moment hit me. I couldn’t help but think, “This….is….IT. OMG!! It’s actually happening!!” I think my face was sore from smiling by 7 a.m.
After picking up our badges, we made the drive past the KSC gate and had our chance to gawk at the VAB and the famous “__ Days to Launch” sign. The Vehicle Assembly Building, the large single-story building in the world, has been used to assemble launch vehicles for human spaceflight since 1968. It contains the four largest doors in the world, each 456 feet high and requiring 45 minutes to open or close completely. It also happens to be my favorite building in the entire world. And we got to park in the lot directly in front of it! Needless to say, I was already on a total Space Geek high….
The walk to the NASA Tweetup tent from our prime parking spots in front of the VAB is one that tours and winds through history, each step bringing you closer to the famous Countdown Clock and a glorious view of Launch Pad 39A. The Press Site was already swarming with activity, people setting up for the following day’s launch to catch a glimpse of Atlantis’ last leap into history. It was complete NASA Tweetup sensory overload: and I absolutely loved every minute of it! We caught our first glimpse of the Atlantis, the Countdown Clock, and entered the NASA Tweetup tent. Every direction you looked, there was a memory to be made. I was constantly aware that I was not only a part of history, but finally living a dream come true.
We took time to take pictures in front of the Countdown Clock, meet fellow Space Tweeps, and settle ourselves in the tent, which is far from just a “tent.” The NASA Tweetup tent is massive, boasts Wi-Fi and plentiful power outlets, and is air-conditioned for comfort in the July Florida heat. And did I mention it is only three miles from Launch Pad 39A? Yeah….dream come true.
After the Space Tweeps were all snuggled in the NASA Tweetup tent, we began with introductions. Wow, what a diverse and accomplished group! I found myself wishing there would be time to chat with everyone. We started with speakers from @ISS_Research and @ISS_NatLab, who enlightened us with the research happening on the International Space Station.
We then listened to @Astro_Mike (Astronaut Mike Massimino) and @Astro_Wheels (Astronaut Doug Wheelock) converse with a rather unusual NASA Tweetup attendee….Elmo! Elmo was visiting Kennedy Space Center for a couple days so he could teach kids about the neat things going on at NASA. He finished his visit at NASA by joining us at NASA Tweetup and watching the final launch of Atlantis.
When it was time for Elmo to leave, we listened as @Astro_Wheels described his work as Commander of the International Space Station for Expedition 25. He described the Shuttle launch sequence in depth, compared and contrasted and Shuttle and Soyuz, and inspired us with his description of the vision of Earth against the deep black of space.
What an incredible morning! Stay tuned, folks. There’s too much NASA Tweetup goodness left to share; more is coming in the next blog!
“Do not lose hold of your dreams or aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.” ~Henry David Thoreau~