Category Archives: space

LAUNCH:Energy Super-Charged!

Sparks fly when innovative thinkers join together to address critical issues — like solving the world’s sustainability problems. LAUNCH gives us a unique opportunity to expand the Fellowship of Innovation with  ten new LAUNCH innovators, several dozen new LAUNCH Council Members, and new members of the LAUNCH team. What a privilege to recharge my creative batteries in this unique creative power source.

LAUNCH: Energy view of Vehicle Assembly Building

LAUNCH: Energy. Space Shuttle Endeavour waits for us over at the VAB.

It was only one week ago when NASA hosted LAUNCH: Energy at the Kennedy Space Center. Quick summary: ten innovators presented TED-like presentations to thought leaders in their various disciplines. Presentations are followed by high impact round table discussions with each innovator to probe, question, and evaluate the potential of each innovation.

LAUNCH: Energy is our third sustainability forum, following LAUNCH: Water and LAUNCH: Health. This was our first without a Space Shuttle launch to plan around. We’ve never hosted an event at the Kennedy Space Center during a holiday weekend. A government facility on a long weekend feels like a ghost town — eerily deserted. On the flip side, we had the place to ourselves. We FINally snagged the Mission Management Team meeting room, which was always our first choice. Planning events during Space Shuttle launches means prime real estate is already spoken for, and rightly so.

Press site

The press site looks so empty without a Space Shuttle launch.

We were fortunate to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building where post-retirement Space Shuttle Endeavour takes shelter. I have to admit, seeing her without her eyes, nose, and engines made me heartsick. How strange to stare in the face of history.

Space Shuttle Endeavour in her twilight years.

Space Shuttle Endeavour in her twilight years.

Many ask us: Why LAUNCH?

LAUNCH is our opportunity to problem-solve for an entire weekend with a group of innovative thinkers who care deeply about saving the world — social entrepreneurship at its best. As a bonus, we hopefully infect participants with our “Yes We Can” space virus that they, in turn, spread to their colleagues, friends and families.

Personally, LAUNCH is an intellectual treat. Brain candy!

LAUNCH is all about three things for NASA:

  1. sharing the sustainability story of how life off this planet mirrors Earth — we have no natural resources in space which forces us to generate, collect, store, conserve, recycle, and manage our resources wisely — just like Earth but more extreme;
  2. offering our problem-solving expertise and convening power of the NASA brand to host a crucial conversation with innovative problem solvers from around the world, and
  3. promoting the emergence of transformative technology to solve problems that we share as global citizens of this planet, which may also address issues of long-duration life in the extremes of space.
Inspirational setting for LAUNCH:Energy

Can you think of a more "problem-solving" setting?

Fellowship of Innovation

The ten innovators, who are now part of our innovation fellowship (and FAMILY) offer a variety of solutions to address energy sustainability challenges. The innovations include an economical fuel cell that can be recharged in a cooking fire, a thin flexible electrochromic film that can be applied to windows or surfaces to manage energy use, a low temperature heat activated fluid motion pump, a hydrokinetic turbine, a 96% efficient wood combustion cookstove process, a thermal energy battery for economical refrigeration in remote locations, a next generation fast-charging, long-lasting ultracapacitor battery, an integrated smart microgrid, a lightweight energy management system, and a solar-powered lantern/charger.

Solantern light, charging station, and solar charger.

Solantern light, charging station, and solar charger.

Social Entrepreneurship

At its essence, LAUNCH is an enterprise grounded in social entrepreneurship — the effort to target large-scale transformational outcomes to make life better for a segment of the underserved populations on our planet.

Side Note: Social entrepreneurship is near and dear to my heart and the topic of my PhD research. Thanks to two separate bus rides from Kennedy Space Center back to our hotel in Orlando, I refined my research proposal — which was due immediately following LAUNCH: Energy. Council members Carrie Freeman of Intel and James Parr, formerly of IDEO and founder of Imaginals, introduced me to new concepts and potential research paths. I came home and rewrote my proposal.

LAUNCH is the innovation soup we create by pulling together just the right ingredients and turning up the heat — like a long bus ride at the end of a long day.

Hatching new ideas on ride to and from Kennedy Space Center

Hatching new ideas on ride to and from Kennedy Space Center.

Accelerator

And now, the real work begins. The Accelerator process, the next phase, is the critical follow-through leg of the LAUNCH journey, where our LAUNCH team 1) walks the Innovators through recommendations and insights shared by the Council, 2) refines and crafts a forward strategy, and 3) helps make connections necessary to solidify future support for each innovation. This process can last from four-six months, depending on the wishes of the innovator and the maturity of the innovation.

Thanks to all the LAUNCH team for all the long hours in planning, preparation, and execution. Thanks to all the Council Members for giving so generously of your time. Thanks especially to all our LAUNCH Innovators for caring enough about the future of our human race to create transformative solutions. You guys ROCKet!!

To borrow from Innovator Frank Wang, “Let’s get super-charged. BOOM!”

LAUNCH Innovator Frank Wang, "Boom! Super-charged!!"

LAUNCH Innovator Frank Wang, "Boom! Super-charged!!"

Resources:

LAUNCH:Energy Flickr photos by LAUNCH team member Dennis Bonilla.

LAUNCH:Energy photos by LAUNCH Council Member Michael Catalano.

Forum Concludes with LAUNCH of New Ideas to Generage, Store and Distribute Energy by LAUNCH Council and team member Rebecca Taylor

LAUNCH: Energy Forum — An Update from Mission Control  by Department of State team member Vy Manthripragada.

LAUNCH: Energy Forum — Fueling Ideas, Propelling Innovation by Department of State team member Vy Manthripragada.

LAUNCHing an Energized Future by LAUNCH team member Lena Delchad.

Collective Genius for a Better World by NASA’s Open Gov team member Ali Llewellyn.

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SpaceTweetup: #Awesome

I keep trying to post my thoughts and photos about the first-ever European tweetup in Cologne, Germany and a smaller tweetup with @Astro_Paolo Nespoli, @Astro_Cady Coleman, and  @AstroSamantha Cristoforetti at the ESA/ESRIN facility in Frascati, Italy. Way too many great conversations and experiences to slow down and write. Now that I’m back home in DC, I have no more excuses.

One word sums up the week: AWESOME!

SpaceTweetup stage

SpaceTweetup stage. Cologne, Germany

Just so you know, I was informed by my European tweeps that they were making a bit of fun at our American enthusiasm by using the word awesome. As it turned out, awesome became the catch-word of the event — with it’s own hashtag. I think enthusiasm is actually contagious, if given the proper petri dish. Right @twISSt? ;)

Kudos to Marco Trovatello and Henning Krause of the Germany Space Agency DLR and Fulvio DriganiErica Rolfe, Daniel Scuka, Andreas Schepers of the European Space Agency ESA. You guys ROCKet!

Here are some highlights of the Space Day Tweetup in Cologne:

Enthusiast tweeps waiting to board the bus.

Enthusiast tweeps waiting to board the bus.

Cat herder ESA's Erica Rolfe

ESA's FABulous tweep-herder @EricaRolfe

ESA/DLR SpaceTweetup Welcome

ESA/DLR SpaceTweetup Welcome by Marco, Andreas, and Fulvio.

ESA's @DanielScuka is tweeting for @ESAoperations.

ESA's @DanielScuka tweeting for @ESAoperations.

We headed out to the tarmac to see the A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world, and Sofia aircraft, or Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. We got a glimpse of the German version of Air Force One for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (What is it with wet tweetups lately? Did Stephanie Schierholz and I bring the STS-135 rain with us?)

German version of the Air Force 1

German version of the Air Force 1

Sofia telescope

Sofia telescope

We headed back to the tweetup tent to meet the Expedition 26-27 and STS-134 astronauts. One problem, we separated from the group somehow. Here are my LostMates!

Lost with me on the grounds of German Space Day: @SpaceMike @Timmermansr @JohnnyMojo

Lost with me on the grounds of German Space Day: @SpaceMike @Timmermansr @JohnnieMojo

This little train came by to give us a lift.

This little train came by to give us a lift. Well, not exactly...

This little magic train appeared. I thought maybe it would lead us back to basecamp, but no dice. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how we found our way back to the tweetup tent. Perhaps it was the huge inflatable astronaut that guided us home. (Or the smell of coffee and pastries back in the TWent!)

Large inflatable Spacewalker at German Space Day

Large inflatable Spacewalker at German Space Day

SpaceTweetup Coffee Bar

SpaceTweetup Coffee Bar

Before starting the program again, we assembled at the stage for a group photo. Just then, @Astro_Paolo appeared in the tent, followed by @Astro_Cady, @Astro_Box, @AstroIronMike, @Astro_Taz, and Drew Feustel. One by one, they plopped down in the middle of the chaos to pose with us for the group photo. Totally unscripted. Totally AWEsome!

SpaceTweetup Portrait with Astronauts Sprinkled in. Photo: ESA

SpaceTweetup Portrait with Astronauts Sprinkled in. Photo: ESA

Here is a list of the speakers from the agenda. As you can see, the DLR/ESA folks kept us hopping — in a wonderful way.

SpaceTweetup speakers

SpaceTweetup speakers

I lost track of the number of astronauts who visited the tent during the day. Ten or more, maybe? ESA astronauts train at a facility on site, which made it easy for them to drop by. I was thrilled to meet new ESA astronauts Alexander Gerst, @Astro_Luca Parmitano, and @AstroSamantha Cristoforetti, as well as veteran astronauts like Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.

And, you know how it goes…when astronauts show up, tweeps leap into action…as in Lights, Camera, Action!

ESA/DLR SpaceTweetup TWaparazzi!

TWaparazzi!

New ESA astronaut @AstroSamantha

New ESA astronaut @AstroSamantha

@DataChick brought @VenusBarbie and friends

@DataChick's @VenusBarbie and friends listen to @Astro_Luca

NASA's Stephanie Schierholz encourages ESA Astronaut Alexander Gerst to tweet

NASA's Stephanie Schierholz encourages ESA Astronaut Alexander Gerst to tweet

I loved hearing new ESA astronaut @AstroSamantha tell the crowd that her inspiration has been @Astro_Paolo, @Astro_Ron, and his brainchild @FragileOasis. WooHoo for Fragile Oasis!! AND, if we can work out an agreement with our ESA colleagues, we hope to include ESA bloggernauts on the site. Shhhh. That’s just between us…. 

Stephanie Schierholz and I had an opportunity to share insights from our NASA tweetup experience. Here’s what tweeps look like via my iPhone Hipstamatic app Helga lens. Quite surreal and grainy. Or maybe it was all a dream.

Our very own TWaparazzi!

Our very own TWaparazzi! @mfrissen @gravinaut @hollandSpaceCen

With Space Day in full swing, we shared the facility with 80,000 visitors — adding to the excitement and frenzy.

DLR balloon in the crowd outside the SpaceTweetup Tent.

DLR balloon in the crowd outside the SpaceTweetup Tent.

Jeff Wallace @RocketMan528 carried @Camilla_SDO to Europe with him. Camilla is quite the cult hero. Space groupies rushed to take photos with her (including my Star Wars buddies and me). I don’t know if you can tell, but the woman in this photo is crying. I’ve never seen anything like it. Crying, just because she got to hold a rubber chicken (a very lovable rubber chicken, I might add).

SpaceTweetup @Camilla_SDO Fan

SpaceTweetup @Camilla_SDO Fan (They even dressed alike!)

Star Wars characters invaded the tweetup tent!

Magnet @Camilla_SDO collects Star Wars + NASA

I have so much more to share. Time and space get in my way. I’m still processing and absorbing. I have so many new tweeps to connect with. Without social media, I would never have met any of you out in the virtual universe — like my long-time Twitter buddies @Cosmo4U and @Amoroso, whom I met in person for the first time.

Our world is getting smaller, but our connections are limitless!

@SpaceRaceKids + @Timmermansr sharing the space luv!!

@SpaceRaceKids + @Timmermansr sharing the space luv!!

For more information about the tweetup, you can read ESA’s excellent blog and their Flickr stream.

I leave you with a few iconic pics of Germany.

Church next to my hotel.

Church next to my hotel.

The view outside the train station!

The view outside the train station!

Yummy Pretzels!

Yummy Pretzels!

Very Matrix-y: Remember to look UP inside the Frankfurt Airport

Very Matrix-y: Make sure you look UP inside the Frankfurt Airport

Next post: ESA/ESRIN tweetup in Frascati, Italy.

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Moon Shadows

Now that I’ve started the PhD program at Virginia Tech, I drive to the Blacksburg campus one day a week for classes. In order to get to my 9:00 a.m. class, I leave my house at 4:00 a.m. Needless to say, much of the drive is illuminated by artificial light — street lights and headlights from my car. Once I get into the hills and mountains outside the Washington, D.C. area, street lights disappear, as well as the light pollution from the metroplex. An amazingly bright moon (and BBC news on XM radio) kept me company.

Moon from Space

Moon from Space

As I drove, I thought about the disparity between people who live without power around the world — even today — and the hi-tech culture that sends humans to space. Technology enables me to look at photos of moonrises from space in near realtime. Some cultures may never see those pictures.

Lost in thought, I noticed something odd. Light kept flashing on and off the road in front of me and bounced off the hood of my car — like a pulsating flood light from a helicopter, but engulfing too great a distance to be manmade. I looked up through my sunroof to see the source.

The trees on top on the mountain cutaway created a filter pattern, blocking and revealing the moon, strobe-light fashion, as I drove through. It dawned on me:

Moon Shadows!

I’d never seen them before, that I can recall. What a cool experience in the black of night to have the heavenly light-dance in front of and all around me. A song from my distant past flooded into my memory: Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow.

“Yes, I’m being followed by a moonshadow

Moonshadow, moonshadow

Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow

Moonshadow, moonshadow…”

In my case, I was embraced by a moon shadow.

What is the significance of any of this? I’m not sure. I just felt the need to share the wonder and awe I felt driving through moon shadows, even just for a few minutes. I felt connected, in some strange way, to humans who walked on the surface of that huge reflecting orb in the sky. I felt sad for Astronaut Ron Garan who leaves behind, probably forever, the magnificent view he has of the moon and stars from Space Station.

Moon Rise over Earth. Photo by @Astro_Ron

Moon Rise over Earth. Photo by @Astro_Ron

Thank you, Moon, for inviting me to your shadow-dance performance. You made my day!

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Welcome to Gravityland @Astro_Ron

Moonrise

Ron Garan's Moonrise from Space Station September 12, 2011

Astronaut Ron Garan departs Space Station Thursday, September 15. I know his family is elated. He’s been gone for six months. I have to admit. I’m having the opposite reaction. I’ve truly enjoyed his tweets, twitpics, blogs, vlogs…and, yes, phone calls from space.

As founder of Fragile Oasis, Ron tirelessly provided fresh content for NASA’s fledgling website to ensure we tell the story of space in a way that inspires Earth-bound citizens to want to make this world a better place. From the unique point of view only our astronauts can provide, we learn about our blue planet — a fragile oasis suspended in an extremely hostile universe. Fragile Oasis features projects submitted by the community to contribute to a better tomorrow. Take a moment to browse the awe-inspiring projects on the site.

Fragile Oasis

Ron is the Founding Bloggernaut for Fragile Oasis.

“The focus is not on the problems of the world but on how the problems of the world are being solved by amazing people.” — @FragileOasis

I first met Ron at our LAUNCH:Water forum, when Ron’s Manna Energy was selected as one of ten disruptive innovations. I had no idea he was an astronaut. How cool is that! When he went to Star City to train for his time on Space Station, Elyse David and I both received phone calls from Russia with a new brainchild: Fragile Oasis. And now you can join Fragile Oasis too — simply by signing in through Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn.

I have to say, working with Ron brought some really cool perks — like photos from space.

Photo of my family in Soweto flown in space

My daughter Steph, my mother and I are visiting a day care in Soweto, South Africa.

A green screen Space Station photo of me in the actual Space Station

A green screen Space Station photo of me in the actual Space Station. Oh the irony.

The photo immediately above is from NASA’s Galactic Explorer Module, one of my first creations in my current job as Outreach Manager. We created a green screen kiosk that allows individuals and groups to go to space and back in 30 seconds (ok, not really, but it’s as close as we can offer on the ground) and email their photo/video to friends and family. This was years before social media hit the scene — but our early attempt at viral messaging.

This green screen photo of me with Space Station as a backdrop is now up in space inside the real Space Station. Too cool for words!

Ron thrilled dozens of space tweeps when he called to say hello at our STS-135 tweetup. He’s called each one of our Fragile Oasis team members from space. It seems like a simple thing to do, but a phone call from space is just over the moon! Well not literally, but you get my point.

Ron, we’ll miss having you in space. You’ve been an amazing ambassador. I’m sure you’ll have us running around the moment you climb out of your Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan this week. See you soon.

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Remembering 9/11

I drive past T.C. Williams High School on my way to work every morning. Yesterday, I noticed the cluster of flags on the front lawn, which reminded me that September 11 is this weekend.

Cluster of American Flags in front of TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA.

Cluster of American Flags in front of TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA.

Once I got to work, I watched a new 9/11 Tribute on the NASA website, featuring former Astronaut Frank Culbertson, Expedition 3 Commander on the Space Station at the time of the 9/11 attacks. He was the only American off the planet with eyes to see the devastation from 220 miles up. I was really taken aback by my emotional response to the video.

Smoke from Twin Towers. Credit: NASA

Smoke from Twin Towers. Credit: NASA

Tweet about 9/11My daughter Steph came by the office yesterday afternoon. It was her first day of classes in the International Psychology PhD program at the D.C. campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. I went outside the building to welcome her, and happened to see Frank Culbertson walk past. I stopped him to thank him for his moving tribute and introduced him to Steph. We chatted a bit about his experience. Here’s a letter Frank wrote while in space.

I know everyone is writing about their experiences, and you’ve probably read one too many. I just need to get this out. Feel free to jump to the bottom.

+++

I was working in the Administrator’s Office at NASA Headquarters, which meant my office had a very large TV that I never turned on. The morning of September 11, I turned on the TV. Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America reported a plane hit one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center. I was frozen to the screen, assuming it was pilot error. When the second plane hit, I knew: terrorism. [I worked as a CIA Fellow on the very first Terrorism Analysis team in the mid-1980's.]

Then the third plane hit the Pentagon. My sister called from Texas with a very clear message. “You have two daughters. Get out of there.” I put down the phone. Turned off the TV. Picked up my purse and left the building. I didn’t ask. I didn’t wait for instructions. I simply left. Motherhood instincts kicked in.

I pulled out of the NASA garage to the sound of sirens everywhere. Police cars zoomed past, though the streets seemed strangely empty. I drove South on 395, the highway that curls around the Pentagon. Black smoke blocked my path, belching from the fires at the Pentagon. The image haunts me even today. I drove into the thick blackness, sobbing uncontrollably. On the other side of the smoke, police blocked the North-bound route. I was one of the few cars that made it south before they closed the highway completely. My mission: get to Steph. She was a student at T.C. Williams at the time. My daughter Carol was in New York, attending Syracuse University.

I passed the high school with the intent to get off the roads, park at home, and walk back to the school. I opened the my front door just as a second explosion rocked my house. I had no idea what caused it. I just knew I needed to get to the school to make sure Steph was safe. (I assume the second blast was the fuel depot for the Pentagon helicopters.) I rushed to TC to get Steph, as well as Paolo, a Brazilian student who had come to live with us to study English. As we walked home, we watched fighter pilots fly over us. We were safe. Parents of other TC students weren’t. They worked in the Pentagon.

Note: I accompanied my daughter Carol and her team from Syracuse to work with the Red Cross at the recovery site in NYC after 9/11. For eight hours a day, we sat with the Ground Zero workers during their breaks, listened to their stories, served food, cleaned the tables and floors, and did whatever was needed. Our experience included housing at the YMCA, where my daughter and I shared a set of bunk beds with a couple of mice who chewed through my clothes. Not hers. Only mine. But all for a worthy cause. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to serve, even in such a small way.

+++

As we approach the tenth anniversary of September 11 tomorrow, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives, as well as the military families who’ve suffered loss.

Human hatred and the outward expression it evokes, for whatever reason or provocation, is simply heartbreaking. We have the power within us to learn how to overcome differences and find common ground. We are, indeed, a global community — as we model every day on Space Station.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

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Space Pioneers Invade Capitol

“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” — Roald Dahl

After each mission, our astronauts visit the NASA Centers and Washington DC to share their stories and thank the staff who supported them before, during and after their zero-G adventures. This week, the crews of Space Shuttle STS-134 and Space Station Expedition 26/27 came to town. They spent time visiting the hallowed halls of Congress, and stopped by NASA Headquarters to debrief employees.

Below is STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly introducing members of his crew: Pilot Greg “Box” Johnson, ESA’s Roberto “Ricky Bobby” Vittori, Mike “Spanky” Fincke;  as well as two members of his twin brother Scott‘s Space Station Expedition 26 and 27 crew: Cady Coleman and ESA’s Paolo Nespoli. STS-134 is missing two members: Drew Feustel, who is in Europe, and Greg Chamitoff, who is on vacation in Australia.

@ShuttleCDRKelly introduces STS-134 + Expedition 26/27 crew @ NASA HQ

@ShuttleCDRKelly introduces STS-134 + Expedition 26/27 crew @ NASA HQ

Greg "Box" Johnson, Roberto "Ricky Bobby" Vittori, Mike "Spanky" Fincke, Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli

STS-134: Pilot Greg Johnson, Roberto Vittori, Mike Fincke; Exp 26/27: Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli

The crew shared photos and video from the mission, and answered questions. Box Johnson talked about the violent ride to orbit on the Space Shuttle on top of seven million pounds of thrust. Spacewalker Mike Fincke talked about his final spacewalks during a Space Shuttle mission. Roberto and Paolo were the first two Italians in space at the same time. We saw a clip of their chat with Pope Benedict XVI, another first in space.

Pope Benedict XVI talking to STS-134 & Space Station crews

Pope Benedict XVI talking to STS-134 & Space Station crews

Paolo Nespoli: Disadvantage of Zero-G living -- losing your spoon.

Roberto Vittori: "If you close your eyes, you wake up where you don't want to be."

@Astro_Cady "We need lots of different faces up in space to inspire kids to dream

We had some special guests in the audience at NASA Headquarters for the briefing. @FlatSamantha was in the HOUSE!

@FlatSamantha posing with space suit at NASA HQ

@FlatSamantha posing with space suit at NASA HQ

You may not be aware, but STS-134 had a additional crew member: @FlatSamantha. Yes, @FlatSamantha went to space. Here’s a condensed version of @FlatSamantha’s space story. I first met @FlatSamantha at the STS-134 tweetup, a special guest of Doug White. After the STS-134 launch was delayed, Doug asked if @FlatSamantha could go with the crew to space. I contacted STS-134 Pilot Box Johnson to see if he could take a digital image of @FlatSamantha to space. He went one step further. He took a printed photo of @FlatSamantha with him to orbit, and snapped a photo of her picture with space as the backdrop. Too cool!

@FlatSamantha: Junior crew member for STS-134. Photo by Pilot Greg Johnson

@FlatSamantha: Junior crew member for STS-134. Photo by Pilot Greg "Box" Johnson.

Box brought the photo back home to Earth, and offered to deliver the “flown-in-space” picture of @FlatSamantha to “the-real-Samantha” in person. What a guy!!

@Astro_Box with @FlatSamantha and the real Samantha

@Astro_Box with @FlatSamantha and the real Samantha

Box posed for photos with Samantha’s family and friends, including @FlatSamantha’s NASA tweetup escort Doug @CPUguru White (seen on the far right). “The-real-Samantha” is easy to spot in red.

@Astro_Box + @FlatSamantha + Samantha + @CPUguru

@Astro_Box + @FlatSamantha + Samantha + @CPUguru @ NASA HQ.

Doug posted all his @FlatSamantha pics on Flickr. He’s got some great shots from the STS-134 launch tweetup and the visit to NASA Headquarters. Be sure to check them out. You can also read all his NASA tweetup blog posts, including Samantha’s story.

Tweet about Flickr streamAfter saying goodbye to Samantha, we headed upstairs for the office lunch with the crew. I sat with Mike Fincke. He’s simply adorable. He was the first to become a space dad while in orbit in 2004. His wife gave birth while he was in orbit for six months on the Space Station Expedition 9 mission. He also holds the record for most days in space for an American: 382 days. (Oh, and Mike thinks space smells like burned medal, rather than burned cookies.)

Spacewalker Mike Fincke

Spacewalker Mike Fincke @ NASA HQ office lunch

As he talked, I noticed his fingernails. I asked if his spacewalk damaged them. He told us how the nail laminate peeled off inside the glove while he was working. He said he could feel it, but it didn’t hurt. One nail looked like he’d smashed it with a hammer. I knew spacewalker lost nails, but I’d never seen it before.

Tweet about @AstroIronMike's fingernails

Having the crew come to town is always a highlight for me. I love hearing their stories. I love getting as close as I can to space. Our astronauts touch space. They look with glittering eyes at the world above us. They come back with answers to the greatest secrets hidden in the most unlikely places. They go to the extremes of where humans can go. They pave the way for others to follow.

Thank you space pioneers! You can invade our nation’s Capitol whenever you want. :)

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Space Shuttle: Wheels Stop

“In life, there are no ordinary moments. Most of us never really recognize the most significant moments of our lives when they’re happening.” — Kathleen Magee

One week ago today, STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis landed on Earth for the final time.

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button.

Last Thursday, I left my Cocoa Beach hotel at 3:00 a.m. to head out to the Kennedy Space Center to meet the space tweeps who would share this historic moment STS-135 Landing Tweetup with us.

I’d never seen a Space Shuttle landing before. This would be my first…and last.

After checking in all our landing tweeps, we boarded the bus around 4:30 a.m. — Zero-Dark Thirty!!! We waited for news of STS-135 Atlantis in orbit. Only at Deorbit Burn could we head out to the landing strip.

Chris our KSC Escort wait for new of Atlantis' Deorbit Burn

Chris our KSC Escort waits for news of Atlantis' Deorbit Burn

Ah the anticipation. But still, it was really, REALLY early. Thankfully, some came well-equipped with Red Bull and Energy Drinks!!

Ching-Yao Yu @nutzareus pointing to Energy Drinks

@nutzareus pointing to @sharkb8t Energy Drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks!

Many of our friends showed up — some flat, some furry, some human: @CraftLass, @WoodToast, @MouthTheTribble, @Astro_Fuzz, @FlatSamantha, and Camilla_SDO

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters.

We received news of Deorbit Burn! WooHoo! Our bus driver pulled out of the parking lot. We were on our way.

Space Tweeps on way to Final Space Shuttle Landing

Deorbit Burn means NASA Tweetup Bus is moving!

Not long into our journey, we slowed to a crawl in snarled “final landing” traffic. @WiredForFlight and @FlightSoft checked an iPad app to track our progress on the road.

@WiredForFlight @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic

@WiredForFlight + @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic.

Once we arrived, we headed to the viewing stands. I was hoping the sun would defy nature and rise early so we could see Atlantis drop from the skies. But no.  Still dark.

Shuttle Landing Tower

Shuttle Landing Tower

As we waited for Atlantis to land, the Expedition 28 crew onboard the International Space Station streaked across the sky at 17,500 mph. What an amazing treat to wave to @Astro_Ron Garan, Mike @Astro_Aggie Fossum and their crewmates 220 miles overhead.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Atlantis landed just a few minutes after Station crossed the sky. I expected to cry, but instead, I squealed and giggled. This was my first landing. It was more first than last to me. I felt incredibly giddy.

Tweet: Job Well Done America!

What a treat to be part of history!

We all boarded the bus again, and said goodbye back at the media badging building. @WinObs rode off into the sunrise on his bike, but before he left, he posed with @Camilla_SDO.

@WinObs post-landing w/ @Camilla_SDO

@Camilla_SDO gets around. Here she is with @WinObs.

I headed back to Cocoa Beach to check out of my hotel and grab breakfast with Madi Sengupta and Mary Lynne Dittmar. Next we headed over to the launch pads of our past — Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury. The Apollo pad is well cared for. Gemini and Mercury, not so much. Walking among the ruins, I imagined ghosts of rocket boys with crew cuts and slide rulers who paved the way for the Space Shuttle generation.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

One of the highlights of the day: attending the employee celebration with Atlantis post flight! Here is my first view of Atlantis, the star of the party.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Atlantis Post-Landing

Here she is: Atlantis!!!

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

My "mark" on history.

My "mark" on history.

Thank you Stephanie Schierholz for making the landing tweetup happen. What a glorious day. Sad because it’s the end. But what a wonderful 30 years we’ve had!

Time to head to the airport. On the way, I pulled over to take a picture of space melons. Only on the space coast…! ;)

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

On the flight home, the flight attendant read aloud a note someone gave him, recognizing the last Space Shuttle landing and the end of an era, as well as the NASA Administrator in the front row and other NASA employees on the flight. The passengers broke into applause. Tears streamed down my face. The end. It finally hit me.

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Filed under Earth, federal government, NASA, space, tweet-up