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Final Shuttle Launch Tweetup

“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.

STS-135 Atlantis Launch. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

STS-135 Atlantis Final Liftoff. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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:

2 Days to Launch

NASA tweetup registration

NASA tweetup registration

That evening, the skies told a different story:

Ominous L-2 Clouds over Cocoa Beach

Ominous L-2 Clouds over Cocoa Beach

L-1, NASA tweetup day, the weather turned stormy:

1 Day to Launch

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.

NASA tweetup Twent-full

Twent-full!!

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.

NASA Deputy Lori Garver addresses space tweeps

NASA Deputy Lori Garver addresses space tweeps to kick off the formal tweetup event.

@SesameStreet Elmo chats with Doug @Astro_Wheels Wheelock

@SesameStreet Elmo chats with Doug @Astro_Wheels Wheelock

Elmo tells @Astro_Mike he wants to be a teacher.

Elmo tells @Astro_Mike he wants to be a teacher.

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.

Space Operations Chief Bill Gerstenmaier

Space Operations Chief Bill Gerstenmaier

View from NASA tweetup tent

Deluge: VAB + launchpad view from NASA tweetup tent

Tweet: TWent Movie Title: A River Runs Thru It, or under it

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.

Angie Brewer, Atlantis' Flow Director

Angie Brewer, Atlantis' Flow Director

We draw a crowd. The press come in and out of the TWent — our ever present TWaparazzi.

TWaparazzi

TWaparazzi!

After lunch, we headed out to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on the #COOLbus! See for yourself…

STS-135 tweetup Cool bus

STS-135 tweetup #COOLbus!!

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?

@Astro_Ron tweet after calling STS-135 tweeters from space.Inside the VAB, I always get emotional looking at the flag hanging from the top.

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? ;)

Flag inside the Vehicle Assembly Bldg

Flag inside the Vehicle Assembly Bldg

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.

STS-135 space tweeps in front of Atlantis on Launchpad

STS-135 space tweeps in front of Atlantis on Launchpad. Credit: NASA/Paul Alers

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.

Sarah Horst @PlanetDr twitpic of Atlantis on the pad L-0We 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.

STS-132 astronaut Tony Antonelli

STS-132 astronaut Tony Antonelli

STS-1 Pilot Bob Crippen

STS-1 Pilot Bob Crippen

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!

Countdown clock portrait

Countdown clock portrait. Credit: NASA/Paul Alers

Astrovan with STS-135 crew

Astrovan with STS-135 crew. No U-Turns!

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.

Seth introducing Shuttle Fanfare

Seth introducing Shuttle Fanfare

Space tweeps eager to hear Bear McCreary's Shuttle Fanfare composition

Space tweeps eager to hear Bear McCreary's Shuttle Fanfare composition

@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.

Space Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad

Space Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad

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.

@keJames eager for Atlantis to liftoff

@keJames eager for Atlantis to liftoff

Press Site Craziness

Press Site Craziness

But we weren’t the only ones watching Atlantis leave this planet for the final time. The Expedition 28 crew onboard Space Station were glued to their screen.

@Astro_Ron tweets pic of Space Station crew watching launch

No, it's not Sunday football. Expedition 28 crew watching Atlantis liftoff.

Here is my launch collage of Hipstamatic images of Atlantis breaking the bonds of gravity.

Collage of my iphone images of Atlantis using the hipstamatic app

Collage of my iphone images of Atlantis leaving Earth.

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:

@KelleyApril + @glancz jumping for joy

@KelleyApril + @glancz jumping for joy!

Big takeaway: We turn dreams into reality. Let’s go boldly into the future together.

For now, if you want to help make this world a better place, join Fragile Oasis and submit your own project. Founder and chief Bloggernaut @Astro_Ron is waiting to hear from you!!

Flyer for Fragile Oasis

Fragile Oasis Tweetup Flyer

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STS-134 NASA Tweetup: Day 2

Day 2 of the STS-134 tweetup started with great hope for an afternoon launch. I passed this car in the parking lot. LUV it!!

Space Shuttle Team: Doing What Others Dream

Space Shuttle Team: Doing What Others Dream

What a day. We started with a NASA Tweetup marriage proposal and ended with a launch scrub. Oh, and a visit by the President of the United States and First Family somewhere in between.

NASA Tweetup Proposal @tempegirl @chriscardinal

NASA Tweetup Wedding Proposal: Chris Cardinal @chriscardinal + Nina Tallman @tempegirl

Nina Tallman accepted Chris Cardinal's wedding proposal

Nina Tallman said YES to Chris Cardinal's wedding proposal

We took our traditional NASA Tweetup Countdown Clock pic. What a good looking group of tweeps.

STS-134 NASA Tweetup Launch Clock portrait

STS-134 NASA Tweetup Launch Clock portrait. Photo credit: NASA/Paul Alers

Good luck finding yourself in this shot, tweeps. I’m sitting crosslegged in front in white pants. They weren’t quite so white after the shot. ;)

Our Brits celebrated the Royal Wedding in their very own way — complete with flag-waving in front of the Countdown Clock. They are hoping to “launch” Royal Kate and William into wedded bliss. At least, that’s my interpretation.

Brits @tristamsparkes @jackdearlove @DrLucyRogers

Flag-waving Brits @tristamsparkes @jackdearlove @DrLucyRogers

@JackDearLove trying to take over NASA tweetup

@JackDearLove trying to take over NASA tweetup ;)

@JackDearLove's flag

@JackDearLove's flag

We had great lineup of speakers, starting off with Astronaut Ricky Arnold. He’s somewhere in the sea of tweeps in the photo above. Here are a few great quotes tweeted out during his talk. The Barbies were all so excited. Ken too!

@VenusBarbie & friends

@VenusBarbie & friends

@jenniferHuber Ricky Arnold food tweet
@SusanMazza quoting Ricky Arnold
@michaelbmore quoting Ricky Arnold
@TimLillard quoting Astronaut Ricky Arnold

NASA’s Education Chief, Leland @Astro_Flow Melvin came to speak next.

@SpaceTeam tweet about @Astro_flow
@schollem lego tweet about @Astro_flow
@brendajburrell quotes @Astro_Flow
@CarsonSkinner quotes @Astro_Flow

Tweeps heard more about NASA’s activities with LEGO from Daire McCabe, LEGO designer, then heard from Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett, Launch Weather Officer.

@DrLucyRogers LEGO mission patch
@NancyBroden weather tweet

We broke for lunch then lined up along the “road to the launch pad” to wave to the STS-134 crew as they pass by in the AstroVan. But, alas, they drove past, turned around and went back where they came. The dreaded SCRUB!

AstroVan headed to Launch Pad A

AstroVan headed to Launch Pad A

AstroVan returning Crew

AstroVan returning Crew

We went back to the NASA tweetup tent to wait for more information about the next launch attempt. The President and First Family toured the Kennedy Space Center and met with the crew. Some of our tweeps waved to them as they passed by.

POTUS with STS-134 crew

POTUS with STS-134 crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

We found out that the earliest next launch attempt will be Monday at 2:34 p.m. EDT. Many of the tweeps had to say goodbye, sadly. But not before lots of goodbye pics like the one below with the LEGO mission patch.

Space Tweeps

Space Tweeps

We packed up, making plans to start this show again on Monday, if all goes well. Our DC Twitter rep, Adam Sharp, was the very last to leave around 6:30 pm. He has a meeting Monday and can’t stay for the next launch attempt.

Last to leave the tweetup tent....

@Sharp: Last to leave the tweetup tent....

Here’s my last look:

NASA Tweetup Tent Sign

NASA Tweetup Tent Sign

Looks like Seth Green, Clare Grant, Nicole Solomon and Abe Benrubi will be coming back for Monday’s launch attempt. WooHoo! (BTW, thanks Nicole for strongly encouraging me to using Hipstamatic pics. They really are so much fun!

@SethGreen tweet

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Filed under AIDs, Bethany House Trust, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up

STS-134 NASA Tweetup: Day 1

Day 1 of the STS-134 tweetup! We started sunny and ended with a lightning storm.

Welcome Sign at NASA Tweetup Tent

Welcome Sign at NASA Tweetup Tent

Space tweeps arrived one by one, and two by two, and more. Mascots are popular at tweetups. We have @Flat Samantha, @VenusBarbie, and we even have @Space_Spider, who will be flying to space on STS-134. Her Earth-bound spider kin came to visit us at the tweetup. We have bunnies and bears, but no rubber chickens this tweetup.

Cynthia Foust @32Teeth

Cynthia Foust @32Teeth

@News_Barbie

@VenusBarbie

@FlatSamantha

@Space_Spider

We even have a few TWelebrities to sweeten the deal, as if coming to a Space Shuttle launch wasn’t sweet enough. :)

@LeVarBurton tweeting

@LeVarBurton tweeting

Note: our TWelebrities are gracious and warm. They eagerly take pictures with the tweeps. LeVar Burton rescued a lost tweetup badge, delivered it to its owner, and autographed it. Seth Green asked everyone to autograph his “It’s Hard To Tweet In A Spacesuit” poster. Clare is totally space-geeking OUT! Abe is a big sweetheart. And…Nicole, bless her heart, cleaned my iphone lens — since she noticed my Twitpics seemed blurry. You guys ROCKet!! Thanks for being a part of our tweetup community.

@SethGreen with @VenusBarbie @DataChick

@SethGreen with @VenusBarbie + @DataChick

@FlatSamantha tweet

@FlatSamantha tweet

We have an amazing group of 150 tweeters from around the world. Very few knew each other until today. The chatter in the room is evidence of how quickly the NASA tweetup experience bonds us together in community.

Tent full of tweeters!

Tent full of tweeters!

We’ve seen tweetup romances. Tweetup career changes. And perhaps, we’ll claim our first tweetup baby! Yes, today I learned that one of our tweeters may be pregnant. My lips are sealed until she gives me the thumbs up to share her good news. I promise I won’t say a word about it…outside this blog.

To enhance the tweetup experience, we brought our Photo Op Spacesuit (@DrLucyRogers modeling suit below), and Photo Op banners of Mission Control and the KSC Firing Room. Our JPL buddies brought 3D images of Mars, along with souvenir 3D glasses.

@DrLucyRogers

@DrLucyRogers

@Flashman

@neemaamini @pedramamini

@neemaamini @pedramamini

We had great lineup of speakers for the tweeps. And even more on Launch day!

NASA's Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati

NASA's Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati

NASA's Endeavour Flow Director Dana Hutcherson

NASA's Endeavour Flow Director Dana Hutcherson

NASA's Tara Ruttley @SpaceMama

@Astro_Clay Anderson

@Astro_Clay Anderson

@SethGreen tweeting @Astro_Clay-isms

@SethGreen tweeting @Astro_Clay-isms

After all the speakers, we loaded onto busses for our tour of the Shuttle Landing Facility, the Vehicle Assembly Building (where we saw STS-135 Atlantis tank and Solid Rocket Boosters), and the Saturn V facility. We returned for a short break before our planned visit to Launch Pad A for the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure from Endeavour. But Mother Nature intervened in a spectacular way — preventing our trip to the pad.

NASA's Bill Ingalls' Lightning photo

NASA's Bill Ingalls' Lightning photo

But, all is well. The storm passed. We’re still on track to launch at the regularly scheduled time: Friday at 3:47:55 p.m. EDT.

BBC's @JackDearLove tweet

BBC's @JackDearLove tweet

We start again early tomorrow morning. (And if I stay up any longer writing this post, I’ll be able to watch the royal wedding!)

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Space Wonder from Earthling Eyes

French photographer Thierry Legault takes some amazing photographs of our spacecraft. See what I mean?

STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery approaching Space Station to dock. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery approaching Space Station to dock. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Spacewalk as seen from Earth. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Spacewalk as seen from Earth. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Goosebumps!

You are looking at images of Space Shuttle Discovery’s final mission to Space Station. Soak in the significance of these images. We are closing out the final chapter in our nation’s Space Shuttle program. (But you already knew that, right?) So cool that we have photographers like Thierry out there caring enough to record this journey for us.

Let me share the back story of our NASA relationship with Thierry.

It all began back in September 2006, when Space Shuttle Atlantis launched to orbit for STS-115, a 11 day-19 hour-6 minute mission to Space Station and back. Thierry captured this image.

STS-115 Atlantis & Station in front of the sun. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-115 Atlantis & Station in front of the sun. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Note: Space Station had a totally different shape then. We were only six years into the decade-long construction project.

I saw this picture in a magazine and tracked Thierry down through his photography service in France. On April 24, 2007, I wrote him this email:

Thierry,
Your image of Station and Shuttle in front of the sun is absolutely FABULOUS! May we have permission to use the photo with our NASA exhibits?  We would give you credit, of course! Your image is the most striking I’ve ever seen, and the fact that the Shuttle and Station are in the same shot from Earth is incredible. The general public has trouble getting excited about Station because we’ve built it in orbit. They’ve never seen it, except in our images from space. Your image allows them to touch space from home.

He contacted me almost immediately and agreed to let us use his photo. We were thrilled! For me, the story this image tells is that humans (and the things we create) are SO tiny against the awesome backdrop of the universe we live in. Wow! Plus, we can allow folks at home a glimpse of of the incredible engineering marvel we’re building UP IN SPACE.

Fast forward to August 2008, we received an email from Thierry that he was interested in taking pics of his beloved Atlantis during the STS-125 Hubble servicing mission. The only problem was, Hubble orbits 35o miles over Earth. Space Station orbits 220 miles overhead. He couldn’t afford the special lens required to capture the image – an additional 130 miles UP in the sky. He wanted to know if we had one, or were willing to buy one, so that he could record such an historic event — the final Space Shuttle repair mission to Hubble.

Intrigued, we did a bit of research to see if we had any NASA camera equipment that met the specs. Nope. Our next option was to look into purchasing the lens, but we needed to find other uses of the equipment after Thierry borrowed it for the mission. NASA photographer, Bill Ingalls, raised his hand (or more accurately, jumped up and down with glee) at the opportunity to get his hands on the lens. Done. (And, just so you know, the price of the lens dropped significantly by the time we purchased it. We snagged a great lens at a great price.)

Thierry traveled from France to Florida for the STS-125 mission. Our own excellent Bill took Thierry along with him for all his official duties, giving Thierry access to the best NASA locations to photograph the mission.

What did we get out of the deal? Incredible images of Space Shuttle Atlantis and Hubble in front of the Sun, that’s what!

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit

The images went viral. Newspapers, websites, blogs, tweets around the world gushed about Thierry’s images of our spacecraft. What’s not to love?

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

Thank you Thierry for sharing your photos (and your amazing talent) with us. You’ve perfectly captured the drama and awe and wonder of space.

What an out-of-this-world sight!

Hot off the presses (or email): After posting this morning, Thierry sent me more images to share with you. How many times can I say WOW!!! Simply breathtaking!

Space Station during Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with Space Station 05/16/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with Space Station 05/16/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Station 05/22/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Station 05/22/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Solar Eclipse 01/04/2011. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Solar Eclipse 01/04/2011. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Thierry, keep ‘em coming!

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