What’s a NASA Tweetup? The easiest way to explain it is an event NASA puts out onto Twitter, then selects a hundred or so participants from those who reply registering to attend, who then get to spend time around NASA spacey-type stuff and/or people – Previous Tweetups have included launches!
This one was not quite as pyrotechnically spectacular as a launch (it’s DC, they tend to object to such things), but rather we had the chance to meet and listen to Colonel Ron Garan (@astro_ron), a NASA Astronaut who’s been on-orbit both in a shuttle and on the International Space Station (ISS) itself.
No, it’s not quite the same as a launch, I’ll grant you, but it’s still a big deal for someone who’s been fascinated with space and space travel ever since she was a kid.
That would be someone like me, in case you didn’t follow the connection there
It was also an opportunity to meet some people I’ve only known as Twitter handles until now – Erika Vick (@egvick), a shuttle engineer at NASA who’s always been daft enough to listen to some of my hare-brained ideas about space things, and Sam (@samjeude1), who I was introduced to ages ago by the wonderful Jacqueline Lichtenberg (@jlichtenberg) (whose Sime-Gen books absolutely rock and have just been reprinted, so go buy them!).
So what happened? We all got some insights into unique aspects about manned spaceflight that rarely make it onto interviews, and almost certainly never into press releases.
Snippets such as Colonel Garan’s fellow Cosmonaut on his return from the ISS remarking, during re-entry, that swinging under the just-deployed canopies slowing the Soyuz capsule‘s descent was like being on an American theme-park ride.
Or the very interesting note the Colonel made in response to a question, that when he returned from space the first time, someone handed him a t-shirt to change into and it felt like a brick on his arm, whilst on returning from his second flight, it was as if a switch went off in his head making his transition back to earth gravity almost effortless.
These are little things that authors like myself drool to hear, giving us even more information and ideas about space travel that we can use to help us find more ways to draw readers into a story.
Not to mention the “ISS Blues” short videos the Colonel made whilst on-orbit on ISS:
(Fortunately, I don’t think @rfamovie, @elizabethkarr or @vampiremob are at any risk from the Colonel’s film making capabilities )
I guess it was expected that someone would ask the Colonel about the future of spaceflight, given NASA’s 2013 budget announcement was yesterday (also, incidentally, attended by NASA Tweetup people), but his response was pretty upbeat with regards to the idea of lunar exploration and the potential benefits it could provide. It wasn’t surprising at all to hear the idea that it would be easier to build a manned spacecraft to go further out in-system off-earth, it’s long been a staple idea of science-fiction (and science fact) writers for years. Now if only politicians would figure out this concept – it’s only been around for nearly a hundred years by now after all
There was the almost obligatory freeze-dried food packages on the stage, and what looked like a replica spacesuit, but all attention was on Colonel Garan, who eschewed the provided stool to pace at the front of the audience while he talked. And boy did he talk!
The whole thing was being streamed live on NASA TV, but they had to bring that to an end at 2pm. Stephanie @schierholz (who is one of those who tweeted as @NASA) brought the conversation to a halt and gave a glowing end-of-show speech, then paused waiting for the floor director to declare the stream was over … but the Colonel managed to interject the last word for the segment while she paused Once the NASA TV part was done, it was back to questions for another hour, but I get the feeling the Colonel would have kept talking for as long as the hall remained open (and we would have remained listening too!) if Stephanie hadn’t brought things to a close (finally) at 3pm
At the end, it was time for the social part, and I got a chance to talk to Erika Vick and Sam – with the added bonus of being able to take Sam and her other half (whose name I’ve totally forgotten for now) over to NMAI and the Mitsitam Restaurant inside where I introduced them both to the joys that are frybread
There’s a ton of stuff I’ve not mentiuoned here, but to be honest the whole event was really cool and I lost myself in enjoying listening to Colonel Garan’s experiences and anecdotes so much I hardly tweeted (even though I brought my capacitor to make sure I had enough charge for the amrtphone) and only managed to get 3 pictures (below).
I do need to note one minor thing though: I think Colonel Garan is slightly crazy. Oh don’t get me wrong, it’s not that whilst on ISS he was perfectly happy to take that step out of the airlock to spacewalk miles up above the planet’s surface, travelling at speeds that meant he got to see 16 sunrises per “day”. It’s that he was a test pilot in the USAF. Sorry, but to do that job requires a little bit of crazy
Having said that, as I noted several years ago, the guys and girls @NASA have the best job in town. Dammit
My thanks to Colonel Garan for taking time out of the complicated part of his to spend time with us.
- NASA TweetUp with Ron Garan (planetpookie.com)
- NASA Invites Twitter Fans to 2013 Space Budget Announcement (space.com)
- Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s Unto Zeor, Forever: More Than Just Tentacle Sex (tor.com)
- Meet Stephanie Schierholz (newmediarockstars.com)
- Today Was Good, Today Was Fun; Tomorrow Is Another One (planetpookie.com)
- NASA assessing viability of deep space outpost near the moon (slashgear.com)
- ISS time-lapse makes Earth look incredible (geek.com)