Monthly Archives: November 2009

Vote @Astro_Mike: Tweet of Year

Vote for Twitternaut @Astro_Mike Massimino’s first tweet from space for “Tweet of the Year” in Mashable’s Open Web Awards Social Media Edition.

You can vote once a day through December 13th.

First EVER Tweet from Space

First EVER Tweet from Space

Find out more about NASA’s first Massimillionaire.

Let your vote send this message: When we tweet from space, everyone listens.

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Filed under leadership, NASA, social media, space

Zambia: Thanks for Serving!

If you’ve read earlier blogposts (listed at bottom) that I wrote about Africa, you already know my aunt Melody.

We visited Melody in Zambia this summer while my uncle Phil came back to the U.S. for a medical procedure. Phil is my Daddy’s youngest brother. He’s not that much older than my brother and me, so we grew up more like cousins. I have so many stories I could tell you about Phil, but…I won’t. (Talk to me later.) I met Melody for the first time when my superstar basketball player uncle brought his cheerleader girlfriend home to meet the family. Melody taught us cheers out in my grandparents yard.

We loved bubbly, fun Melody at first glance. And she’s still the same!

Phil and Melody Stephens serving God in Zambia

Phil and Melody Stephens serving God in Zambia

Now Phil and Melody serve in Zambia. I asked Melody to share some of their life with you. I held this post until today, Thanksgiving Day. Seemed like the perfect time to share what they do for a living — a life serving God and giving thanks day by day.

Feel free to fall in love with them too!

I sent Melody a list of questions. Here are her answers:

How long have you and Phil served in Zambia?

3 years. We arrived October 12, 2006.

Downtown Livingstone

Downtown Livingstone, Zambia

What brought you to Africa?

Phil came to see the work of another missionary in 2000 and fell in love with the people. I came the following year and loved the people, but although I knew God wanted us to serve Him here, it took a couple of more years before this “city girl” agreed!

Boy in Mukuni Village

Boy in Mukuni Village

Why Zambia?

Zambians are the people group that God placed in our hearts. I sometimes wonder myself…Why Zambia?? Why not Ireland or Hawaii?? Now, I could really feel the love there if only given a chance. ;)

But no, God chose Zambia and now I am so thankful. I love the people and feel a great burden to teach the children of the love of a Wonderful Savior  — the One who would call me out of my little boxthat I fit so well in– and bring me to this place half way around the world and open my eyes to the needs of the people here. Everywhere we go here becomes an opportunity to share the Gospel with a lost and dying world.

“Zambia was not on my top 100 places to live but it is now the ONLY place that I want to be.” — Melody Stephens, missionary

What you see as the greatest need physical need of the people?

Right now I would say that I think the greatest physical need of the people is clean water. There is a water shortage in the compounds and quite often there is no water for them to drink. The water that is available is dirty and loaded with who knows what. We (Amerians) know when it is so hot that we need to drink more, yet they drink less because of the diseases that come with bad water.

What surprised you most you the most about living in Zambia?

Where to begin…. Here are my top ten:

#10. Weekly power outage (often more frequently) because the government officials say we have excess power to sell to neighboring countries. So, if we have so much power why am I sitting in the dark?? And why can’t they let me know when it will be off so I can plan my life??? (Oops! I’m back in the box!)

Zambia Zebra

Zambia Zebra

#9. I am totally surprised by elephants, giraffes, zebras, monkeys…okay all the “zoo” animals roaming around freely with no barriors.

#8. I am surprised by little village boys who don’t often see vehicles using their flip flops as pretend cars making roads in the dirt and adding the correct “noises” to their game.

#7. Going to the store to buy bread or milk or eggs and finding none…because management didn’t think to place an order.

#6. The beauty of the sunsets and flowers.

#5. No one is in a hurry.

#4. The crude tools used to create works of beauty.

#3. The “Thunder” of Victoria Falls.

Children caring for babies.

Children caring for babies.

#2. Children carrying bables on their backs, and being responsible for siblings at such a young age.

#1. But, the most surprising thing of all is the joy of the Lord that a soul set free has here in Zambia. They are not in a hurry to worship. They will sing and praise God all night and all day. And can they sing!

I love to hear the Zambian voices lifted up in praise to the God who set them free.

What do you like the best about your life?

Serving the Lord day in and day out with Phil. I love the people both young and old. I love the adventure, the animals, the flowers and the opportunity fo depend on God daily to supply our needs.

Pastor Kebby preaching

Paston Kebby preaching

How can readers donate?

Tax-deductible donations can be made to our missions agency:

BBFI (for Phil and Melody Stephens–011310)
PO Box 191
Springfield, Mo.65801-0191

Phil and Melody Stephens on the Mighty Zambezi!

Phil and Melody Stephens on the Mighty Zambezi!

You can catch up on our adventures/observations in Southern Africa:

  • 2 Comments

    Filed under Africa, leadership, poverty, water

    Space: What’s NOT to Hope for?

    At the NASA tweet-up down at the Kennedy Space Center for the STS-129 launch a reporter asked me a question that really threw me. Here, a week later, I’m still thinking about it. He asked:

    “Do you think bringing tweeters here gives NASA hope for the future.”

    NASA Tweeps Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

    NASA Tweeps Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

    Hope for the future? Really?

    Why wouldn’t we have hope for the future? With or without Twitter in the mix?

    What’s not to hope for?

    Now, I get all the doom and gloom reporting about job losses with the end of the Space Shuttle program, and threats of budget cuts. Yes, the job losses are real. Yes, they are heartbreaking AND very frightening for those whose jobs are at stake. Yes, we’ll probably take some budget hits from the White House and Congress. We are, after all, in a squeezed economy…though we see signs of recovery. But none of this is new. We’ve faced all this before.

    But, hope for the future? I simply can’t conceive the reverse.

    We have a universe of questions out there to find answers to. We, as humans, are curious creatures. We’ll find ways to get the answers. It may or may not look like someone’s pet project. It may or may not fit on today’s calendar. Or even tomorrow’s.

    But we, as a human race, WILL GO FORWARD. We will seek answers beyond our planetary borders.

    NASA will play a role. What that role will be is determined by the President and Congress. That’s the way this works. But we’ll be a player, none-the-less. We’ll shape the debate. We’ll craft the solutions.

    Again, what’s not to hope for?

    Maybe what we need more than hope is to work harder to ignite that spark of passion in young and old alike to:

    • ask big questions,
    • never accept the easy answer,
    • stretch beyond even our wildest dreams.

    Oh we have much to hope for! Humanity has many problems yet to solve. But some of us can’t sleep until we bridge the gap between imagination and reality. And, you know what? It’s not about you and me…or what we may want out of this life — fame, fortune, power, or simply survival.

    Hope is about a better tomorrow…for all of humanity.

    So the real question may be: what role will NASA and the international space community play in the future? (A HUGE one, I hope!) And, how can you and I take steps to get us there?

    If you ask me, I want to: Be the hope! Be the change!

    “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

    Cross post on OpenNASA.

    25 Comments

    Filed under culture, Earth, federal government, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up

    How Twitter is like Mission Control

    I’m on the other side of my Door Jam Saga. Whew! Thank goodness. My Twitter buds, or Tweeps as we like to call ourselves, lived through the drama with me–offering tips and moral support. Now you too can relive the experience with me, and see how they helped.

    Come to think of it, Twitter became my own personal Mission Control!

    I mean really. That’s how it works during missions. Astronauts up in space have a problem. They signal Mission Control down on Earth. Teams come together to provide options to resolve the issue. Think Apollo 13…or the STS-12o mission when Astronaut Scott Parazynski repaired the Space Station solar array with an onorbit hand-crafted “cuff link.”

    Yep. That’s pretty much how it happened for me with my Door Jam Saga.

    Here’s the tweet that called TWission Control to action:


    Door Jam Tweet

    Door Jam Tweet

    Let me set the stage for you. I came home from work to find the door to my study closed. How odd. It was open when I left. I tried the door, but it wouldn’t budge — as if a body was leaning against it, holding it closed.

    Believe it or not, I actually called out to ask if someone was there.

    You know, like the creepy horror movies I refuse to watch. That spooky scene where the woman hears a noise and goes to check it out. If I were watching the movie, I would yell at the screen and tell her to run for her life — in the other direction. But  no, here I am in my own house, asking if someone is behind the very door I’m trying to open.

    Not smart! (Readers, don’t try this at home.)

    At that point, I realize how silly, and reckless, I am. I head back to the front door and perform a series of escape maneuvers:

    • Open the door (in preparation for a speedy egress — NASA term).
    • Change from heels to running shoes (conveniently by the door). Also prepping for a speedy egress down the front steps.
    • Call my daughter. Think help-line live.

    With my daughter on the phone ready to call 911, I approach the closed study door again. I’m wondering, upon reflection, why I didn’t pick up a baseball bat or something. But, I was wise, really. I’m faster on my feet in flight, than I am strong — for hand-to-hand combat, I mean.

    Back to the story: With iPhone in hand, I announce to the person behind the door that I’m on the phone with the police (BIG LIE). I demand he come out.

    Silence. Thankfully!

    Next, my very wise daughter suggests I go out side and look in the window to see what’s blocking the door. I follow her advice. Luckily I’d opened the blinds before I left. Otherwise, I’d be driving blind, so to speak.

    Ah ha! The culprit? Two VERY heavy Ikea frames had fallen against the door to wedge it shut.

    Culprit: Ikea Frames

    Culprit: Ikea Frames

    I thank her, hang up the phone, and try to figure out how to dislodge the frames. Oh, and I also tweeted about it. (The screengrab at the top.)

    Now here was my problem. After going down for the STS-129 launch and Tweet-up, I was almost a week behind in the race to complete 50,000 words in the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. The clock was ticking.

    NaNoWriMo Deadline

    NaNoWriMo Deadline

    Now what to do? I found a heavy medal ruler and tried to un-wedge the frames from under the door. Nope. Frames wedged too tight. I tried pushing the door apart at the top and slipping a wire hanger over the crack in the top for a frame-fishing adventure. Nope. I considered breaking the window, but decided against it. It’s cold…and I don’t like broken glass. I preferred a hole in the study door (which can survive the winter unfixed, should I so choose to ignore it).

    The Twittersphere came to the rescue. Tweeps offered numerous Tw-ideas on how to resolve my crisis.

    @Elross DoorJam TWidea

    @Elross DoorJam TWidea

    UK's @MDBenson offers TWidea

    UK's @MDBenson offers TWidea

    @Brobof's suggestion

    @Brobof's suggestion

    @AdamCanFly Door Jam suggestion

    @AdamCanFly Door Jam suggestion

    @dschwartz2DoorJam

    @dschwartz2 DoorJam suggestion

    @SFC_Don DoorJam suggestion

    @SFC_Don DoorJam suggestion

    Interesting that male tweeps told me how to fix the problem. Female tweeps offered emotional support and well-wishes. …Says SO much, don’t you think?

    So Crazy It Might Work

    @Elross offers suggestion

    I decided to try to take the door handle off and use the hole from the door knob to fish from — like the hole ice-fishers use in winter. Mind you, the screws to the door knob were INside the room. I was OUTside the room. I needed to saw the knob off. I naively thought the lock-works would simply fall out.

    I made a trip to Home Depot, planning to buy an electric saw to chop this baby off in seconds. The little man at the store didn’t want me to pay so much money for the electric version. He kept taking me back to the manual-labor wall. He insisted I could take down a measly little door knob in a matter of a few minutes — 15 tops.

    I didn’t believe him. In my gut, I knew. But I let him talk me into a hand saw.

    Bringing out the Big Gun

    Bringing out the Big Gun

    TWO HOURS I sawed.

    “Saw” little progress–pun intended. I got really frustrated. My knuckles were raw from rubbing against the door. I posted this:

    Home Depot Man

    Not happy with Mr. Home Depot

    @apacheman Power Tool Danger

    @apacheman offers insight

    At this point, I’m having visions of astronaut Mike Massimino on the STS-125 Hubble repair mission. If you don’t know the story, I’ll summarize for you. During a tricky spacewalk, he couldn’t unbolt one of the handles in an panel he needed to remove. That one handle stood between success and failure. During one of the periods with Mission Control loses video with the crew, @Astro_Mike broke off the handle. He knew Mission Control wouldn’t approve, so he took action while they weren’t looking. One of those “ask for forgiveness, rather than permission” moments. Hey it worked! The mission was a great success.

    So about now, I’m wishing @Astro_Mike could brut-force my door handle. He’s a pretty big guy after all.

    Where is @Astro_Mike?

    I need @Astro_Mike to break off the knob!

    I wasn’t the only one who thought @Astro_Mike could get the job done:

    @negativereturn Need @astro_Mike

    @negativereturn Need @astro_Mike

    Thinking of how @Astro_Mike would take care of an obstacle, I finally got a hammer and broke off the knob. Yes, indeed. I credit my inspiration to the STS-125 Hubble Repair mission. The knob broke off! Yay!!! …or so I thought.

    DoorKnob: Fail

    DoorKnob: Fail

    But, guess what? The lock-works didn’t fall out…like my grand plan. Now I just had a door-knob-less wedged-closed door with my computer inside. Fail. I decided to take the rest of the night off and travel to Lowes in the morning. I really didn’t want to meet with little Home Depot man again.

    My next trick: cut a hole around what was left of the door knob, then put a larger door knob over it. So, I bought this cool gadget (below), but I encountered another problem — the door lock was in the way of where the drill bit needed to be. Fail.

    To draw this very long blog to an end, I drilled a hole in the middle of the door. I snagged the frames with a coat-hanger through my fishing hole, pulled them up enough for me to squeeze into the gap in the door. I’m really thankful I cut off the door knob. Otherwise, I would have a door-knob-sized hole in my belly where the door knob once was. Yes, it was that tight of a squeeze.

    Coco inspecting open door.

    Coco inspecting open door.

    All is well in the TWorld.

    The Twittersphere is restored to order. TWission Controllers can rest now. Job well done!

    Successful ending: DoorJamSaga

    Successful ending: Door Jam Saga

    Oh, and one more thing. I’m no closer to my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo’s November 30th deadline. But I can STILL blame the Door Jam Saga…since I’ve spent time away from NaNoWriMo to share my saga with you.

    Wait. Maybe it’s YOUR fault, readers! ;)

    2 Comments

    Filed under culture, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up, writers

    Why Twitter? Why Now? Why Not?

    I’m still processing conversations from the STS-129 Launch Tweet-Up at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday and Monday. Because we spent launch day at the press site, I crossed paths with a number of veteran reporters and cameramen — yes, most were men.

    They found it “amusing” — to say the least — that we wanted to host a group of “twits.” Ar Ar Ar Ar. Think loud belly laughs and shared nods. (A modern version of their reaction would be fist-bumps.) We prefer the word, tweeps, thank you.

    Here’s one common question: “What can you possibly say in 140 characters?”

    My answer: A few well chosen words speak volumes. What about:

    I love you.

    You’re fired.

    Thank you.

    You’re free to go.

    I’m pregnant. (I’m not. Just so you know.)

    Here are a few words I tweet often. Reality check on our industry. We’ve been reluctant to let others see us sweat. So. I like to remind the twitterverse:

    Space is HARD! We make it look easy.

    But noone can tweet it better than @Astro_Mike Massimino, who is eloquent in his 140 character essays on life in space.

    @Astro_Mike's tweet from orbit

    @Astro_Mike's tweet from orbit

    My point is simply this: 140 characters, crafted thoughtfully, can be life-changing. We, in the government AND media, are wedded to our wordiness. (Just look at some of the titles on our business cards.) We ensure nothing is left open to interpretation. We want the “last word” to close out the argument.

    Twitter invites a conversation. Free form. No boundaries.

    Is free-flowing conversation a risk? Sure. Isn’t it always? But, I think we call that democracy. Right? Freedom of speech? Twitter simply makes it global. And how cool is that!

    Follow the living, breathing NASA STS-129 Tweet-Up conversation.

    BTW, you can help @Astro_Mike win TWEET of the YEAR for his first tweet from space in Mashable’s Open Web Awards. Vote & vote often!

    Cross post on GovLoop.

    4 Comments

    Filed under culture, federal government, Gov 2.0, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up

    Space Tweeps: Flying High

    Oh what to say about the amazingly flawless STS-129 Space Shuttle launch…AND the opportunity to watch it with space tweeps from around the world? Yes, around the world. @RobOotc traveled from New Zealand — the furthest of ALL. (Shout out to Tiffany @astrogerly and @ericmblog for driving non-stop from Michigan!)

    How incredible to give 100+ eager @NASA twitter fans the opportunity of a lifetime to see one of the few remaining Shuttle launches. Yes, I get emotional writing about it. We’re at the end of an era. We’re watching history unfold in the skies above us.

    But, I gotta’ say…I spent a good deal of time over the last two days explaining Twitter to non-Tweeps. (Can I get away with calling them Twitter losers…or TWosers? Is that totally rude?)

    My advice: you can’t just stick a toe in. JUMP!

    The guys still dry have been asking about the Return on Investment ROI for Twitter. I had an entire blog ready on ROI of Twitter, but I’m throwing it away. Instead, I’ll paraphrase a comment by @CatherineQ from New Zealand. She told me her personal ROI (PROI?) for using Twitter was one Million fold. Her reward: Space Shuttle launch and tweet-up!

    How cool is that? OUR launch tweet-up IS HER Twitter ROI.

    So, what’s my ROI for using Twitter? The chance to give 100+ tweeters the thrill of a lifetime with today’s Shuttle launch. They couldn’t stop grinning…and giggling…and thanking us for sharing what WE do for a living — this thing we call “space.” They even made a presention to the NASA employees. A poster they’d signed…for us. Now, that’s a first.

    Thanks guys! Soooo much.

    Nick @Skytland suggested we scan the poster and make it available online to our tweeters. Brilliant. Stay tuned. Thanks also to @flyingjenny and @apacheman for hanging with the tweeps as our KSC experts…and founders of Space Tweep Society.

    Because our tweeters were so enthusiastic and incredibly awesome, we’ve already had discussions for more launch tweet-ups — another ROI, perhaps? We only have five launches left, after all. (And, BTW, launch control called. They’d like us to create the Huffer-Puffer Brigade to blow the clouds away for all the remaining Shuttle launches!) ;)

    Let’s do this thing…AGAIN!

    You too can share our emotional experience from the launch. Take a look at the living-growing archive of our tweet-up tweets, along with our group pic. Aren’t we a good-looking group? Now, if we only had a video record of our space-wave. Or…maybe not. You had to be there.

    Thank YOU space tweeps. You’re the best! I LOVE you all!

    11 Comments

    Filed under NASA, social media, tweet-up

    Twittersphere: Social Space Frontier

    Non-twit-oholics always ask me, “What’s the point? Why Twitter?”

    I’m sorry. That’s like asking me, “Why chocolate?”

    My answer, “Take the first bite, then we’ll talk.”

    But, some still need convincing. I mean really. You know those types. The ones who look at the chocolate cheesecake with swirls of whipped cream…and walk away. Yeah, those guys. They need a bit more convincing.

    If you’re one of them, here ya’ go. Maybe you’ll see what NASA sees out in the social space frontier. Feel free to join us there.

    Social media offers new ways for NASA to interact with non-traditional audiences in a dynamic, viral conversation about space, the merits of exploring the unknown, and its relevance to every day life here on our home planet. For the first time, citizens of this planet can talk to scientists, engineers, policy-makers, and space travelers.

    Of all the new media tools available to us, Twitter offers the most intimate, immediate 24/7 access through mobile devices, laptops, and/or traditional keyboard access.

    In 140 characters or less, breaking space news pings around the world and back again.

    STS-125, the Space Shuttle mission to repair Hubble, marked the first NASA mission where we actively engaged global citizens through social media – Twitter, blogs, Facebook.

    Mike @Astro_Mike Massimino became the first astronaut to use twitter before, during, and after his mission.

    In four short months, he broke one million followers — making him a Massimillionaire! His willingness to tweet during the complex Hubble repair mission captivated media and non-media alike, and propelled @Astro-Mike to superstardom.

    Name of the game: access. Through @Astro_Mike, NASA granted outsiders access into an elite insider circle.

    Twitter offers us a simple new tool to help make space popular within the non-space crowd, and see traction on our goal to elevate “space” within pop culture. One measure of success: Twitter featured @Astro_Mike as one of Twitter’s top accounts on their front page, along with the likes of Hollywood’s Ashton @aplusk Kutcher who tops 3.9 million followers now.

    NASA made it to Twitter’s Top 10 trending topics a number of times during the mission, and in subsequent missions. For the social media generation, @Astro_Mike gained hero-status akin to John Glenn or Neil Armstrong of the “Right Stuff” generation. Now others at NASA have followed his footsteps into the Twittersphere.

    And you can too.

    Here’s a list of current Astronaut Twitter Accounts (in no particular order): @NASA_Astronauts 10,238 followers

    @StationCDRKelly: Scott Kelly 1,973

    @ShuttleCDRKelly: Mark Kelly 1,844

    @Astro_Jeff – Jeff Williams 3,447

    @Astro_Nicole – Nicole Stott 6,253

    @Astro_Sandy – Sandy Magnus 3,769 (no longer active)

    @Astro_Jose – Jose Hernandez 59,241

    @Astro_Tim – Tim Kopra 8,720

    @Astro_Mike – Mike Massimino 1,157,551

    @Astro_127 – Mark Polansky 40,581 (no longer active)

    @Astro_Bones – Bobbie Satcher 1,761

    @Astro_Flow – Leland Melvin 992

    @CFugelsang – ESA/Christer Fuglesang 3,905

    @Astro_RonRon Garan 1,197

    @Astro_Soichi – JAXA/Soichi Noguchi 677

    @Astro_TJ – TJ Creamer 58

    STS-129 Mission will blast off the planet on Monday, November 16 with Twitternauts @Astro_Bones and @Astro_Flow. PLUS, we’re hosting our first Launch Tweet-Up at the Kennedy Space Center. More updates as time allows.

    Learn more about the mission and NASA. You can fan UP on NASA’s facebook too.

    Cross post on GovLoop.

    1 Comment

    Filed under federal government, Gov 2.0, govloop, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up