Tag Archives: twitter

Life Off-Planet Affects Planet-Bound

In a discussion thread on NASA Facebook, several asked:

What do we get out of research that supports humans traveling off this planet, since the rest of us don’t get to tag along for the ride?

I decided to post my thoughts here. This is, by no means, a comprehensive argument for space. Rather, I offer a few brain bubbles on the topic…to get them out of my head, really. So here we go:

Most advancements in science and technology from space are used here on Earth to benefit humans living on this planet.

Shuttle docked at Space Station 220 miles over Earth

Take the issue of radiation. The sun bombards this planet every day. Look at the alarming rate of skin cancer. I know it well. I lost my Daddy to it. Outside the thin blue line of protection our atmosphere gives us, radiation is much worse. We protect our Space Station crews as best we can. But they’ve taken extra precautions, lining up water containers against the walls in certain areas to give them more protection.

Going out further in space, humans will endure much greater exposure to radiation. Any anti-radiation measures we create for space travel will find their way to market back on Earth. That’s just the way it works. We invest in the solution. You benefit from the technology.

What about the humans who sign up to go “out there.” Why should anyone on Earth care what happens to them, right? I mean, they applied for the job. They volunteered. So what do we (the planet-bound) get out of their choice?

Astronauts are human science experiments.

@StationCDRKelly tweets about drawing his own blood for Station science

Astronaut Scott Kelly tweets about Station Science

Astronauts get poked and prodded, spun around, submerged under water, crushed under g-forces, and suffer bone loss — all in the name of science. Oh yeah, they float weightless too. Well, that’s another grand experiment in itself.

Space pioneers, and their families, endure great danger and discomfort to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. They willingly sacrifice themselves for what we don’t know — to advance the cause, to break the code, to peek under the curtains. If we knew everything we ever needed to know about the Universe in our how-to-live-on-planet-Earth guide book, we wouldn’t need pioneers to go out there and  scout out answers for us.

Space Station sodium chloride crystal

Space Station experiment: sodium chloride crystal. Credit: NASA

Humans who travel outside the boundaries of Earth teach us about living and working in a hostile environment with constrained resources. Their space ship is a closed–loop, self-contained biosphere — just like Earth.

Our home planet is a self-contained biosphere with finite resources surrounded by hostile environment of space.

220 miles overhead on Space Station: we make our own energy (solar), recycle our waste water, filter our air, and conserve all our resources. Astronauts/cosmonauts use considerably less water and energy per person than the average AmericanNot by choice really. By necessity. Just like the many citizens of this planet who live without easy access to water or electricity or clean air.

Off-planet living= green living!

We are working to apply these efficiencies back home to help conserve precious water and energy and air on Earth.

And don’t forget this one: unparalleled point of view from SPACE.

We give you a no-borders look at our fragile planet from the outside in.

NASA imagery offers us the big picture view of deforestation, shrunken polar cap, massive weather patterns and more. We help nations address global issues that might not be visible standing on the front porch. Our eyes (cameras and satellites) capture the whole planet for objective analysis.

Earth: the Dark Side of Carbon

Earth: the Dark Side of Carbon. Credit: NASA

We can’t solve all the world’s problems, nor is it our charter; however, we push the envelope. The issues we face off this planet are the Earth’s issues, but magnified.

Make no mistake, Earth faces the same issues: as we stretch our limited resources across the globe to meet the needs of the world’s population. I can say this with certainty based on our 50-year history at NASA:

Whatever we learn about humans living outside this planet will be leveraged to make life safer and better here on Earth.

Your life may depend on it.

Two NASA links you may find of interest: NASA technology and the story of the Universe.

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Kids and Social Media: What the Buzz?

At the Science Online 2010: Exploring Science on the Web conference in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina this past weekend, I attended a panel session of students from Stacy Baker‘s Staten Island Academy Biology class. The panel, Blogging the Future — The Use of Online Media in the Next Generation of Scientists, featured eight students who covered the following topics:

We learned how students use social media tools for homework and daily interaction with classmates and friends. They’re jazzed about anything that involves their friends (interaction) or what friends/others think is cool (the buzz factor).

Student's Social Media Survey

Salina's Social Media Survey

Their comments about Twitter:

  1. Twitter is for adults.
  2. What’s the point?

I agree, from their perspective. My daughters don’t use Twitter. They text and Facebook their friends. They tease me about my TWaddiction, and threaten to take my iPhone from me during holidays — TWintervention. I digress….

Here’s how I see it:

Students have an extensive social network already. A well-populated, self-contained social bubble where the latest buzz spreads like a flash fire that consumes all the oxygen. Then they move on to the next buzz. Within their bubble, facebook meets their needs quite well. But, the moment they step out of their social bubble and yearn for the bigger buzz –timely information about what’s going on in the world, job fields or project funding — they may find Twitter useful. Or more likely they’ll leap-frog to the next social media buzz to follow Twitter.

Jack presented the games he created. We were totally blown away.

Jack's bored, so he created his own games!

Jack's bored, so he created his own games.

I piped up from the audience, saying someone needed to hire Jack. I asked Jack if he wanted to come to NASA and be an astronaut. He looked blankly like the words NASA and astronaut meant nothing to him. Someone else from the audience answered for him, “Why would he want to be an astronaut, when he could be a game-developer?”

BTW: Did you know that the #1 career field for college graduates is game design?

Note: I received quite the ribbing about getting shot down by Jack. Oh NASA, we have SO much work to do! (See Jack’s response below.) On the bright side, Salina was thrilled to talk about NASA.

Yay, SPACE-girl power!

Two major takeaways:

  1. Students look for apps to help with homework. App developers take note: student’s create your buzz for you — if the app is cool AND meets their needs.
  2. Students prefer social interaction over flashy design! If their friends or other students aren’t part of the experience, they won’t engage.

This image and tweet provide the perfect wrap-up:

EVA Conquers Science Online 2010

Photo by @simpleelovlee

"She Came, She Saw, She Tweeted"

Photo comment by @iescience Hilary Maybaum

1/22/10 Update

Jack talks back:

The amazing Jack, The_Dude_Guy, is now on Twitter. He saw this blog and responded. Here is his tweet. Yes, he’s even a diplomat! ‘Gotta LUV Jack! I see a great future ahead for him, whatever career field Jack chooses. He’s absolutely adorable. :)

Jack explains....

Class insights:

Teacher Stacy Baker posted a blog, Extreme Biology at Science Online, about the students’ experience at the conference — one of many, she promises. Each of the students will blog, as well.

Crosspost on OpenNASA.

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Mission: Moon Rock

A Los Angeles Times article (posted by NASAWatch on Twitter) about moon rocks recovered from a filing cabinet brought back memories of my very first job at NASA — moon rock recovery.

Moon Rock Tweet

Fresh out of grad school at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, I came to NASA as a Presidential Management Intern — eager to make my mark on society. When the management at the Johnson Space Center asked what job I wanted first in my two-year rotational plan, I naively said,

“Wherever you need me most.”

So, they sent me to procurement. In procurement, I was handed stacks upon stacks of files and instructed to recover moon rocks NASA loaned out to universities in the 1960′s.

I remember opening up those files to clouds of dust (literally) and thinking I’d landed deeply inside the bowels of bureaucracy. Day after day, I called the phone numbers from the decades-old forms. Most of the numbers were no longer valid. Many of the area codes had changed.

I recovered NOT ONE moon rock.

Nope, not one. Not even a little moon dust (though I was covered in every other kind of dust from those ancient files.)

Epic Fail in my very first space mission.

So, I find this LA Times article amusing. Here’s a great quote:

Lenny Klompus, a spokesman for Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, says the rocks were never actually missing. He says state employees knew the rocks were in a secured cabinet, but they didn’t know which cabinet.

He says the moon rocks will probably be put on public display soon.”

Good ole’ Lenny might just receive a call from someone in NASA procurement — now that we know where our long lost moon rocks are. But…it won’t be me. My moon rock recovery days are over. I’ve had enough file-dust to last a lifetime.

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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! ;)

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

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!

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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.

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NASA Tweet-Up: Live Space Link

Today tweeters joined us at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC to chat with Space Station crewmates @astro_Jeff Williams and @astro_Nicole Stott live onorbit. So nice to meet you all!

Former astronaut Tom Jones helped MC the event and answer questions. When the master alarm sounded on Station ending our live interview, Tom stepped in to explain the onorbit process Jeff and Nicole would be following to check out the cause of the alarm. (All is well on Station. Rest assured.)

Our tweeters had great fun with Tom’s name and tweeted names of songs made famous by singer Tom Jones. (I really didn’t get the reference until later. I was busy tweeting on my iPhone. I saw a few strange references flow down the twitterfall screen at the front, but had no idea what they meant. I guess I need a life.)

Adorable astronaut Mike Fincke, veteran of two Station missions, joined us from Houston (via NASA TV feed) to answer questions from tweeters. He absolutely twinkles. Gotta love him. We also heard from NASA Deputy Lori Garver, Space Operations Deputy Lynn Cline, and Space Operations Jacob Keaton. Jacob shared some anecdotes about the node naming contest and our interaction with U2.

Oh, and BTW, we played Star Girl by McFly in space during the downlink. Yay. So excited to engage an enthusiastic new demographic of music fans who may now perk their ears when NASA missions occur. Star Girl and ThankYouNASA both climbed the Twitter Trending chart after the Tweet-Up. Tom Fletcher, mastermind of the #StarGirlinSpace campaign, thanks NASA.

Let’s now talk a bit about the master alarm episode. Quite unsettling. My first thought, how horrific if something were to happen to Station while our Twitter guests sat and watched. My second thought, confirmation, once again, that:

Space is an unforgiving business. What we do is hard.

We make it look easy.

Our astronauts who live and work in space onboard Space Station put their lives on the line EVERY SINGLE DAY. Watching Jeff and Nicole calmly excuse themselves to go check out the source of the alarm, demonstrates our professionalism. Chances were the alarm registered a false reading. Had the reverse occurred, the worst case scenario would send the crew to the Russian Soyuz escape vehicles to abandon ship.

None of this happened. Whew! Our tweeters went home happy. No traumatic scars from that day at NASA Headquarters when “the alarm” sounded. Yay. Hurray. On with the show.

Here are my iPhone pics from the day. Yes, they’re a bit fuzzy. Work with me. (I’ll caption them properly when I’m not sleepy.)

Note: Just so you know, the spacesuit on the stage is “headless” because the helmets are out being refurbished. It’s really not a Halloween statement, as some thought. ;)

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NASA: Cultural Dust Storm

When everyone was looking for moondust from the LCROSS mission to crash land into the moon, I noticed something else — a cultural dust storm inside the agency. Did you see it too?

We heavily publicized the “moon landing” prior to Friday’s event. In Washington DC, the Newseum hosted our “Let’s Kick Up Some Moon Dust” party. (Even my mother received an email from NASA inviting her to attend. Not sure exactly how THAT happened. No matter.)

Moon Dust Invitation

I was off work on “LCROSS day,” so I logged onto NASA TV to watch the lunar impact. I mean, really. Who DOESn’t want to see moon dust? Watching the mission coverage, though, took me by surprise.

Stop! Before I go any further, I must in all fairness disclose that I work the “human space flight” side of the house at NASA. I say this only to put in context my perspective. I’m accustomed to years upon years (yes decades even) of Space Shuttle launch and Space Station on-orbit coverage — the hushed, almost flat voices of our Public Affairs folks doing commentary, the CapCom astronaut speaking to the crew, and crew responses. Calm. Even. Almost hypnotic. (No offense guys. I’m just trying to frame my point.)

Back to LCROSS coverage. I listened to chatter between the console folks — camera commands, I believe. Some of the voices struck me as jarring. Maybe it was early in the morning, but I found myself reacting to the sound of the voices. (InCREdibly petty. I know. I know. Who cares what they sound like, right? It’s the mission that’s important! Yes, I get it. Really I do. I’m merely describing my reaction.)

I watched the tiny NASA TV window on my laptop as the spacecraft rocketed closer and closer. I listened to the Go/No Go count and wondered about the spacecraft barreling toward the moon. Could we even turn it around if someone voted “no-go?” Hmmm. Not my mission.

I captured screenshots and posted them on Twitpic. I personally love this near-infrared shot below. I think it would make cool Moon art.

Lunar Surface prior to Impact

Impact! We hit the moon, didn’t we?

Yes, the announcer confirmed “contact”…as in crash landing. I was a bit confused. My little NASA TV screen only showed gray fuzziness. The announcer revealed a second impact. Hard to tell. I was still watching blurry images on my computer.

Further confirmation: NASA TV switched to images of arm slapping/hand shaking in the control room, then camera views somewhere outside where we could see happy people in lawn chairs. Then, back to the Control Room:

The Flight Director stood up, put his hands on his hips, and looked directly into the camera. Odd.

Twitter lit up with Moon Dust…or lack thereof…chatter. Some out in the vast twitterverse cheered the achievement. Some expressed anger at NASA for “bombing” a gentle giant. Some voiced confusion about what happened (mirroring my reaction). Some made fun of the coverage.

The social media world joined in for a global conversation about space. Differing opinions, some unflattering, but conversation none-the-less.

I’ve been thinking about my reaction to mission coverage and wondering what it says about me. I’ll be honest, compared to a Shuttle launch, LCROSS felt like the minor leagues. Does that mean I’m arrogant? I’ve really struggled over the weekend to understand WHY I felt underwhelmed by the “Kick Up Some Moon Dust” experience (other than the fact that we didn’t witness a massive cloud of dust — which may mean water).

Here’s what hit me last night: the culture clash between human vs. robotic, engineering vs. science.

I’ve noticed, through my many years at NASA, that our engineers want to tweak perfection, while our scientists want gather more data, to ask one more question, try one more approach. The LCROSS mission is a success because it’s one more approach to asking another question so that we better understand what questions to ask. Their scientific mission is just beginning with lunar impact. Our human space flight missions, in contrast, end upon touchdown or docking — when we safely arrive at our destinations.

We’ve been doing this Shuttle thing for quite some time. The culture of how we do what and what is acceptable is quite ingrained. Launch coverage and mission control cultural norms rule. I fell victim to my human space flight cultural heritage when I subconsciously compared “our” launch coverage with “their” launch coverage…and giggled. Yes, I admit. I giggled — which is not fair to the serious work behind the mission. I feel very rude. Scientific, robotic missions are ruled by different cultural norms.

Look no further than the contrast between the Houston Mission Control “flat-top” and the California “flip-flop” mentality. Both approaches get the job done — just differently.

Now that I’ve had a few days to process, I apologize to all you LCROSS folks. I let my cultural bias cloud (moon dust?) my perception of your mission coverage. Though, I do hope your Hi-5 guy gets a shot at the late-night comedy shows. He deserves a shout out!

Bravo LCROSS. Ignore NASA’s cultural dust storm. We expect your results to “water” it down.

Cross post on OpenNASA.

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Filed under culture, federal government, leadership, NASA, OpenNASA, space

Culture: Straitjacket or Springboard?

I’m thrilled to be featured as a Gov 2.0 Hero on GovFresh.com. I received Luke Fretwell’s request while I was in the Orlando Airport, returning home from a previous scrubbed STS-127 mission. Made my day. (THANKS Luke!!) How cool that he thought of me — one of the many fish swimming around in the huge, vast ocean we call the federal government. My initial reaction:

Do I get a cape? I mean really. Don’t all hero’s wear capes?

Luke sent me a list of questions for the profile:

  1. What was your path to Gov 2.0?
  2. What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?
  3. What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception.
  4. What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

What is Gov 2.0? Easiest explanation: mash-up of Web 2.0/social media tools in government processes. For starters, agencies finding creative ways to “do business” through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, etc.

As I answered the questions, I kept coming back to the same sticking point – culture. An organization’s culture dictates its aptitude for “picking up” new technology to meet daily challenges. Hmm, cultural aptitude tests. Might be incredibly telling.

My buddy, Mike Boon, describes culture in his book, The African Way: The Power of Interactive Leadership,

“Culture is not an independent thing. It is what we are as people. Our culture guides us in how to behave, and it is the expression of our values and beliefs.”

Luke’s Gov 2.o Hero profile questions focus on what technologies exist to transform government. Transparency is the current buzzword with our new President. Transparency is the underpinning of the Gov 2.0 movement — to make what we do inside the government freely and easily available to all those outside the government.

Personally, I love it. But not everyone does.

Transparency can be quite threatening, especially if one’s power base is built on insider knowledge that is closely held and doled out like currency to buy more power.

Will even the most “killer app” technology transform our federal government overnight. Probably not. We are Uncle Sam, after all. Uncle Sam isn’t known for being quick on his feet, now is he? But, what about Aunt Samantha? She just might be a fast-talkin’ two-steppin’ little whipper-snapper who runs circles around ole’ Sam. (Yes, I’m from Texas. Can you tell?)

Do I think new technology will change how we do business in the federal government? Do I think Web 2.0 will transform our decision-making processes from muddy to clear? Actually, I do. But it totally depends on the leadership and culture of the organization.

A risk-averse culture views change with suspicion and animosity.

A risk-averse organization is unlikely to leap into the arms of new technology. More likely, I picture the “concrete boots” reaction. Perhaps we need a VUKA! intervention to shake up our more entrenched organizations. Vuka is a Nguni word that means: ‘to come alive’, ‘resurrect’, ‘bring to life’, ‘wake up’.

Quick note: I’m traveling with family to South Africa and Zambia. In South Africa, we’ll spend some time with Mike Boon and his family. I know Mike from high school. He was a Rotary Exchange student. Amazingly, we’ve kept in touch ALL these years. Mike’s company, Vulindlela, specializes in organizational interventions. We will accompany him to an event in Soweto, outside Johannesburg, to see how this works. Here’s a quote from his website:

VUKA! is dependent on an organisation’s willingness to build in processes that ensure the sustainability of the change that will definitely have occurred in each individual!

Maybe I’ll learn something about VUKA! to bring back to the job to help jump-start Gov 2.0 within our organizations. But even without intervention, we have pockets of open culture within our government already. I work with some amazingly creative, intelligent, secure, energetic, enthusiastic folks at NASA who are chomping at the bit to gallop into the future.

What can I do?  Open doors, supply tools for the journey, and get out of the way as the stampede rushes past!

Does this make me a Gov 2.0 hero? Unlikely. But, hey. I’ll take the title! I wonder what I’ll look like in a cape? ;)

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Filed under federal government, Gov 2.0, leadership, NASA

EarthShip NASA: Exploring the American Pioneering Spirit

I was looking for a file on my computer and found this proposal I wrote (WAY back when) to send out a traveling crew to connect NASA‘s can-do pioneering spirit with folks out in the heartland who do the very same thing…but for their families and communities.

I hoped to ignite passion in Earth-bound citizens of this planet, to push them to the next level in their personal lives…stretch…dream…reach for the impossible. In my mind, I envisioned space gardens and space murals and community space festivals across the country.

Note: Podcasting was new back then. Twitter and YouTube didn’t exist. (I inserted those features after -the-fact.)

At the time I proposed this idea, NASA’s chief of Strategic Communications didn’t believe in traveling shows. He didn’t think NASA should expend our efforts on Earth in this way.  He had a point. But I see things differently. I believe our job is to share what we do best:

we’re the dreamers, the curious, the problem-solvers, the doers.

Yes, we build spaceships and scientific instruments. I get that. But if you think of NASA like a “reduction sauce” in the show, Top Chef, boil down what we do at NASA and you get this:

we make things happen against all odds.

I believe we need to ignite that spark in other Earthlings — the desire to push out the boundaries of what we know. We need generations-to-come of planetary citizens to celebrate the can-do spirit, right where they live…even if their feet never leave this planet.

We have new leadership coming to NASA with the Senate confirmation hearings this week for Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver to come take the helm. Culture can change. Policies can take different directions. Who knows, maybe this kooky idea will take hold with new folks coming in. Ideas that lay dormant can take root…with a little care and feeding. Really. I’ve seen it happen. (Remember, I’ve been around NASA for a LONG time.)

I have a more polished proposal at work, but I thought I’d share the one I cranked out on a flight home from the OshKosh airshow, where the inspiration first hit me.

EarthShip NASA

Mission:

365-Day Mission to explore and celebrate the pioneering spirit deep in the heartland of our country from small towns to urban regions.

Purpose:

Ignite passion for exploration and cultivate the pioneering spirit – whether at home or off our planet.

NASA relies on individuals with curiosity for the unknown to explore unconquered territory outside the boundaries of our knowledge.

Definition:

A pioneer is someone who claims the “first” of any category — the first to attend college in the family, the first to grow a pumpkin patch in the neighborhood, the first to build a playground for handicapped children, the first to study read 50 books during summer, the first to paint a mural with glue, etc.

Logistics:

NASA “terra-naut” team will be composed of five NASA employees from different ethnic backgrounds and ages (including one astronaut, if possible) who will commit to 365 days on the road.  Terranauts will blog/tweet and post video/pictures from the road, celebrating “pioneers” in every stop along the way.

NASA Terranauts will feature the local pioneers on video segments for NASA TV, blogs, and podcasts (plus YouTube, Twitter, GovLoop, and all the new social media tools).

An advance team will plot the cross country course and work with the community leaders to prepare for EarthShip’s arrival — identifying playgrounds to be cleaned up or space gardens to be planted, murals painted on school walls, etc.  The EarthShip team will arrive to set up camp and prepare for the Pioneer Festival.  NASA will offer a portable “Space Fair” in the community, and hold contests for Pioneering awards for all ages and categories.  The Advance Team will work with the community of culture-specific categories.

The EarthShip will consist of a converted Winnebago outfitted to look like a spaceship, and complete with “dorm rooms” for the Terranauts.  Perhaps we can work with Winnebago to provide our transportation, and Mobil/Exxon or Shell to provide gas, in exchange for sponsorship recognition.  Perhaps Good Morning America might team with us to provide once-a-week coverage of our progress, along with live coverage from NASA TV – to allow the public insight on where the EarthShip is going and who we’ve encountered on the way. (BTW, I’m a HUGE GMA fan!!! Yay Chris, Diane, Robin, and Sam!)

A lean support team composed of camera crew (or hand-held vid-cams), exhibit technician, and social media expert will help the EarthShip crew of Terranauts keep up with their postings.  Perhaps we can fly in “Max Q,” the astronaut band to perform at some of stops along the way.  One trailer will house the NASA exhibit material, which will include outside and inside material — weather-specific.

One slot for the EarthShip crew might be reserved for contest winners to travel for one month at a time, learning about NASA and taking the information back to their communities.

So, what do you think?

Crazy, huh? Yeah, I know. I get that all the time. But, still….

:-D

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Filed under Earth, federal government, leadership, NASA, space