“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” — Douglas Everett
I really don’t have the heart to write about the end of an era. Many others are quite prolific in their opinions — both pro and con. I simply want to celebrate the coming together of NASA employees, families, friends, fans, as well as all the new tweetships forged at the Kennedy Space Center during the picture-perfect STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis final liftoff.
Honestly, I never believed we would launch on time with all the crazy weather the day before launch. Torrential rain. Lightning strikes near the pad. I’m SO VERY thankful for our sturdy TWent and plywood floor during the L-1 tweetup events. And it all started out so innocently. Look at the gorgeous blue skies on L-2:
That evening, the skies told a different story:
L-1, NASA tweetup day, the weather turned stormy:
The weather outside couldn’t dampen the spirits INside the NASA tweetup TWent. Space tweeps, who know each other virtually, get to “meetup” for the first time.
Great speakers. NASA’s Deputy Lori Garver kicked off the festivities. Then our special guest, Elmo from @SesameStreet, interviewed astro-tweeters @Astro_Mike Massimino and Doug @Astro_Wheels Wheelock.
Quite the comedy routine. You can watch the U-Streamed video. We learned from @Astro_Wheels that space food tastes like warmed up plastic, and that a Soyuz reentry is like “going over Niagra Falls in a barrel that someone lights on fire.” @Astro_Mike told Elmo that we have to learn to get along on Earth and in space. Team work is how we get things done. @Astro_Wheels added that problem-solving skills are essential. Think Space Station Expedition 24 failed ammonia coolant Pump Module. Side note: Mike also informed Elmo that cougars live in the Bronx Zoo. (But, if you weren’t in the TWent or watching on U-Stream, that comment will make no sense. We’ll just leave it at that.)
Next up: Bill Gerstenmaier, my boss and head of NASA’s Space Operations. He approves the funding to host mission tweetups, so give it up for Gerst. Virtual standing ovation! He gave us a state of the mission update, then the deluge trapped him in the TWent with us.
Angie Brewer, Kennedy Space Center’s Atlantis Flow Director, talked about her beloved Orbiter. We also learned about Space Station research and the new National Lab concept from Tracy Thumm @ISS_Research and Justin Kugler @ISS_NatLab.
We draw a crowd. The press come in and out of the TWent — our ever present TWaparazzi.
After lunch, we headed out to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on the #COOLbus! See for yourself…
On our way to the VAB, @Astro_Ron Garan called from Space Station to say hello to the tweeps! Yes, you read it right. Ron called from space! The tweeps had just enough time to shout out their greetings before the call went out of range. Too cool for words. Right tweeps?
Funny story about the VAB: In the elevator back at my hotel at the end of the day, a boy was telling his mom about getting to go inside the B.I.G. where the orbiter is mated to the tanks. He was telling her it was the biggest building on site, and that’s why they named it B.I.G. I asked if he meant the V.A.B.? Too funny. V.A.B…B.I.G…they sound a lot alike, don’t you think?
Next, we headed out to the launch pad to watch the Rotating Service Structure roll back from Atlantis, in preparation for launch. We’d heard the roll back was delayed due to weather, so I was pretty bummed…until, voila, Atlantis started peeking out from behind the structure. Wow. Atlantis in all her glory. Here we are in front of of the last Space Shuttle before her liftoff on the last Space Shuttle mission. Many thanks to NASA’s photographer, Paul Alers, who graciously agreed to take our picture, even though it wasn’t on his to-do-list.
Overnight I slept with my iphone next to me. All night I checked for scrub email. Nope. Not a one. I left the hotel at 4:20 a.m. but I still didn’t beat the tweeps to the tent.
L-0: launch day!
Take a look at Atlantis on the pad via Sarah Horst‘s twitpic.
We had a steady stream of speakers all morning. NASA’s Deputy @Lori_Garver came back to chat; along with Laurie Leshin, Deputy of the new Human Exploration and Operations Office (we’re merging Exploration Systems and Space Operations); Chief Technologist @Bobby_Braun; STS-132 Pilot Tony Antonelli, and ROCKet star, Bob Crippen, STS-1 pilot, my former boss. I was running around, so I missed some of the drop ins.
We posed for our group portrait by the launch countdown clock, then headed out to see the crew in the astrovan on their way to the launch pad. No U-turns this time!
So many highlights to share from this historic event. A real tear jerker for all of us was the debut of Shuttle Fanfare, composed by Battlestar Galactica’s Bear McCreary through the teamwork of Seth Green, Mike Dougherty, and NASA. Seth introduced the tribute theme song for STS-135, and explained that he’s working on a Blog-umenary for the Fragile Oasis website detailing the process to create the song.
@Astro_Ron Garan called again from Space Station just before launch. This time I passed around my iphone for the tweeps to take to Ron individually. Quite a rush!! We’re hoping to compile a transcript of what everyone talked to Ron about.
But even as awesome as it is to talk to space, the star of the show was Atlantis herself. What an amazing vehicle. What an incredible legacy.
The press site was crawling with humans and cameras. I wasn’t at NASA in the beginning of the Shuttle program. I’d never seen so many satellite trucks and viewing platforms. I’m thankful Atlantis drew a crowd. She deserved it. This photo of Karen James, STS-133 alum, paints a portrait of passionate enthusiasm we all felt.
Here is my launch collage of Hipstamatic images of Atlantis breaking the bonds of gravity.
Thank you space tweeps for making this final launch so special. You are part of the NASA family now! I think this picture says it all:
Big takeaway: We turn dreams into reality. Let’s go boldly into the future together.