June 4, 2020

March 2013 Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Living the NASASocial Experience.

Smartphones in Action!

(All photos by author.)

Ah, the romantic life of a free-lance science writer. Writing offers you the freedom to set your own hours and wake up slowly when you feel like it; it also earns one the right to “sing for their supper” and starve feral and in the wild, often on their very own time table. But along with the triumphs and tragedies that go with modern day writing online, you also tend to miss human interaction and that convergence of like-minded souls.

NASASocial HQ.

It was thus that we sought out fellow space-geek interaction at last week’s NASASocial marking the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft on its way for its successful berthing at the International Space Station. Fans of this space will remember our many exposés on the NASATweetup world with our trilogy which included the 1st Tweetup at the Johnson Spaceflight Center, the (then) final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-132, and the departure of the Mars Science Laboratory during the 2011 #MSLTweetup. In fact, these experiences were what sent us on our way astro-tweeting in the first place, as we realized the utility of social media as an indispensable tool.

The Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon the evening prior to launch.

But this would be our first NASASocial, and our first SpaceX launch up close and personal. How would the experience compare? Would folks be as thrilled celebrating an automated cargo run as they were missions departing to explore other worlds? And what of the rumored friction between old school media and new school NASA Socialites?

Space Shuttle Atlantis under wraps.

I’m happy that I can report that a new generation of space enthusiasts are just as thrilled to watch SpaceX do their thing as was apparent during the final shuttle launches. All questions posed by Spacetweeps NASA Socialites were intelligent, engaging and worthy of the label as new media. No “how do you go to the bathroom in space” questions here. We had unparalleled access into media briefings leading up to launch at KSC as well as the mandatory stops at the hallowed halls of the VAB and a visit to Falcon in its horizontal launch position prior to launch.

Getting ready for the launch from the KSC causeway.

And it always amazes me the generous and communal nature of all NASA Social attendees. Strangers are never at want for a spare charger cable, directions from old hands, or a ride share if required. Cooperation always wins out, and even such vaunted privileges such as vying for the few slots for shooting the launch from the top of the VAB were decided in a surprisingly calm and friendly fashion… how often does THAT happen in modern society? Perhaps we should pick the first crew of a long duration space mission from the ranks of the NASASocial attendees?


All in all, the two-day event went off without a hitch. The launch went on time, and we got a peek at a shrink-wrapped Atlantis ready to be unveiled to the public for display this summer. (A big thanks to PR mogul Andrea Farmer!) Still, it’s always a bit sad to once again see the VAB in our rear view mirror and sense the apprehension with many NASA employees as the shadow of government sequestration falls across America’s space program. We’ve written recently about dilemmas facing the privatization of spaceflight, and it’s a bit sad to see the KSC viewed as mostly a monument to our more heroic days, when history is still being made there. It may be the curse of the modern era to live in interesting times, a period of transition and drama. “Spacetweeps” and their descendants carry on that excitement, and events such as the CRS-2 NASASocial bring us together to recharge our collective batteries and realize that we’re not alone in our excitement about space. The promise of a personal jetpack by 2013 has yet to come to pass… but we’ll be in line to register for the first NASASocial on Mars!

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