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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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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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