OV101 to NYC Tweetup April 24, 2012Posted by craftlass in Enterprise, NASA, RogueTweetups, space, SpaceTweeps.
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New York area residents: We are about to get the coolest new neighbor to ever arrive in this area. I am, of course, talking about the prototype orbiter Enterprise, the vehicle that started the wonderful long-running Shuttle Transportation System program by proving you could actually glide back to the surface of the Earth in what’s lovingly dubbed a “flying brick”.
Last week I was lucky enough to be at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to see Discovery (my favorite orbiter) arrive and Enterprise move out of the home where she has delighted visitors for many years. They are things of beauty beyond words, both of them, and I’m still marveling that one will be easily accessible right in the heart of the Hudson side of Manhattan.
In Virginia, NASA hosted a #NASASocial for that event but the incredible part was how many Space Tweeps showed up for what was dubbed the “Rogue Tweetup”. Approximately 200 tweeps (from what I can gather) joined in the celebrations and had a wonderful time meeting each other or seeing friends from previous tweetups, launches, and other gatherings.
The best part of the week, in my opinion, was not the day of the transfer of Discovery to the Smithsonian, but the day she flew over both her new home and the city of DC. Images of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with her precious cargo over the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and other landmarks are stunning and oh, so poignant.
So, think about it: What’s the one backdrop even cooler than those landmarks? The New York City skyline!
As of now, the most accurate plans I’ve heard include flying up the Hudson River past our local landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and her future home on the Intrepid. With this in mind, tweetup ideas have been flying around and it’s time to make them official. As one tweep said, “You can either be in Manhattan and get New Jersey as the backdrop or you can be in New Jersey and get the skyline.” That made it obvious that the ideal location would be Pier A in Hoboken, easily reachable by PATH train from the city, is a major NJ Transit hub, and lacking in city tolls for anyone driving in from the suburbs and beyond (with big parking garages near the site).
The flight has been postponed several times already and is now planned for Friday, April 27th. The timing isn’t exact but I’ve been hearing it should be around 10 am – 1 pm, but Discovery was a half-hour early in DC, so I would plan to arrive between 9 and 9:30 to set up cameras and such. I will keep updating this page if things change again and with more plans as they are formed, so keep an eye on this or follow me or the hashtag #OV101toNYC on Twitter.
Let’s show this bird that New York is thrilled to have her! Sign up here so we can have a ballpark headcount and join the Facebook group if you want to discuss any further ideas. I’d like to do something to celebrate every stage of her arrival, so I will keep the group active until she is installed in her permanent home this fall, at least.
- What: OV-101 Enterprise NYC Flyover Tweetup
- When: Friday, April 27th at 9:30 AM
- Where: Pier A Park in Hoboken, NJ
- Sign up now
The Quaking Quiet May 16, 2011Posted by craftlass in Endeavour, NASA, space, SpaceTweeps.
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A quiet night. Anticipation and excitement crackle beneath the quiet, though. Everyone’s sleep schedule is different and for many, not working out so well. Sleeping the night before a launch is always difficult but when you have to be up in the middle of the night for a morning launch there is no one way to prepare. Some people went to bed in the afternoon, like the astronauts did themselves. Some slept in today and are braving it out until after the launch. Some people are trying a combination of strategic naps that mostly seem to be getting interrupted by that deep thrill that becomes more encompassing as the countdown clock ticks away.
We’re going to see a launch!
Okay, most of the people I’m with are fairly seasoned veterans when it comes to delays and scrubs, including this being our second attempt to see this particular launch. Sure. Any other day we’ll realize that we took a risk in coming, that tomorrow morning might bring the disappointment of no launch at all. We all know that deep in our minds right now. Every other part of you, however, is completely in denial. You believe, deep down, that in a few hours you are going to see the greatest show on earth in this day. Doubts flee and excitement takes over.
Endeavour is scheduled to launch at 8:56 AM EDT. This makes for some early call times. The friend I’m staying with, who is working the launch, had to be there by 10:00 PM. Others get in at 2:30 AM, 3:00 AM, and so on. Friends in the press will go in about as early as they can. I’m not sure how early the NASA Tweetup tweeps are supposed to arrive this time but if they are anything like my STS-133 group they will start arriving as early as they are allowed. My group, the Ninja Crew, is heading in around 4:30-5:00 AM.
This makes for complicated planning for all. The weird side-effect of sleep issues is that tonight has been particularly mellow. Instead of the usual pre-launch partying everyone is just trying to take care of themselves and make sure they are wide-awake in plenty of time for their own timeframe.
Add in the fact that there are far fewer people around, at least amongst the people I know, and it gets even stranger. The two-week delay made it impossible for many to return, to the point where people were still managing to make local hotel reservations right up until the last minute. The weekend made for a rolling wave of arrivals rather than a big rush like the last few attempts and Discovery’s last launch, too.
It’s kind of nice. Different from what I’ve grown used to, but nice in its own way. I may not have seen that many people thus far but that means the groups who have gathered have gotten a more intimate chance to hang out than usual. My household is made up of people who are becoming more and more like old friends, we’ve spent so much time together at launches, Yuri’s Night parties, SpaceUps, and such as well as chatting online in the past couple of years. Last night we spent 5 hours in the hot tub, having some drinks and talking about everything and anything. Talk about a great way to get to know people even better!
As I type my housemate Rick is next to me on his laptop, updating his fabulous Mission Clock (iOS) app and watching Spacevidcast. Others are resting in their rooms. Even though we’re relaxing at a private home it’s nothing like following the launch from home. Everyone around you is full of that same anticipation and a much deeper desire to have all go as planned than I had ever imagined before I came down here for my first launch. Makes you feel like you are truly part of something special, which you are, even if just a spectator.
After all, this is the very last time Endeavour will ever launch, the last time a single crew larger than 4 will separate themselves from the planet for quite some time, the last time that isn’t the very last time. To be here is to be very, very lucky. It may be very, very crazy since we all made some pretty huge sacrifices to be here, but not one of us will say it wasn’t worth it, especially if this bird actually flies.
In a few hours my borrowed car will be packed with chairs, blankets, coolers, and excited space geeks. I plan to savor this quaking quiet as long as it lasts. After all, a few hours later things will be anything but quiet!
How Could Something So Wonderful Be So Bittersweet? February 28, 2011Posted by craftlass in Discovery, events, NASA, NASAtweetup, space, SpaceTweeps, travel, Twitter.
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2/24/2011. Day 115 of the STS-133 NASATweetup. A most beautiful day in Florida, at the press site of Kennedy Space Center. Most of us had gathered the night before to watch the Rotating Service Structure retract on Pad 39A, revealing the naked shuttle beneath, a most glorious sight to see and something we were supposed to do in November but were unable to. One of several reasons I’m actually glad that Discovery didn’t launch on time, in retrospect. However, a few people couldn’t make it in on time for the retraction, so launch day (was it really going to be a launch day this time?) was the first time all of us who could return were together again and that alone was wonderful enough to fill my heart with sheer joy.
I was actually quite surprised at how many in our group were still completely unknown to me. We hadn’t met on Twitter, hadn’t met at the original tweetup, and I still haven’t met some of them.
On the other hand, there were piles of people who I’d met in November who had become friends, some extremely close and getting closer. It had the air of a family reunion only better because we were about to see one of the coolest things you can see in 2011!
This was to be my 2nd shuttle launch. STS-131 was my first and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, right before dawn so it had the beauty of a night launch with a nearly-unique quality of creating essentially two sunrises in rapid succession. Yes, that’s how bright the shuttle is when you’re only 3 miles away from the pad! Blinding, breathtaking, and utterly exhilarating even before the ground rumbles and the shockwaves hit you.
This time I was a little more prepared for how quickly it all happens and how gloriously intense it is. What I wasn’t prepared for was how different it would be to share the experience with people I love, not just one good friend and two new acquaintances.
Most of us arrived very, very early, almost as early as we were allowed in. Since we’d pretty much blown NASA’s budget for our tweetup last time (they had to keep our tent and everything all week instead of for two days) we were going to have no real facilities, just some bleachers and a charging station in the midst of the press site. None of us cared. We packed up coolers full of food and drinks, some brought along camp chairs, we shared sunblock and bug spray and whatever else we had. We even had some friends not in our tweetup hanging out, as they were officially press, which added to the general community feel. I have never before felt so surrounded by people I care about. I probably never will again.
The remarkable hero to us all, Stephanie Schierholz, had once again gone above and beyond, arranging for speakers just as good or even better than the ones we had last time. Astronaut Shannon Walker talked about her experience on the Soyuz and the International Space Station, which was still fresh to her as she only returned last Thanksgiving. NASA’s Chief Technologist, Bobby Braun, talked about plans for fresh innovation and the future of human spaceflight. We got another demonstration from the Robonaut 2 team, this time with his fresh new wheels. To top it all off with whipped cream and cherries we had former astronaut and current Associate Administrator for Education at NASA, Leland Melvin, who was there to talk about education, naturally, but also regaled us with stories from his days on the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys as well as “secret” tales of life in space. None of them seemed to want to stop talking to us, our gang had tons of great questions and you could tell they enjoyed being so appreciated.
In between, we had a lot of fun just catching up, hugging a lot, getting way too much sun, waving to the astronauts in the Astrovan on their way to the pad, and just generally being silly and overexcited space geeks. When Melvin finally got pulled away we had a bit more time to finish setting up tripods, grab a snack, and figure out where we wanted to be for launch.
Last time I stayed at the first house formed, known as the Big House. I’ve gone on and on about what a family we became, both in prose here and in song, so I won’t bore you with that story again. This time there were some complications and I wound up in Lambda House, another wonderful mix of people I already adore and some I hadn’t met. Two very different experiences, both fantastic. However, missing my Big House tweeps led me to choosing to spend the launch with them. Andy Cochrane made sure I was front and center for the launch (after all, I’m the shortest of us all…) and I loaned him a tripod since I wasn’t taking pictures or video myself. That’s just what family does, right? (For a real treat, listen to Andy’s audio from the event, it will blow your mind, especially if you’ve never been that close to a launch!)
Most of the people around me had never seen a launch of any large rocket before and their energy was extra-infectious as the big countdown clock ticked it’s way towards 0. The surprising thing about the press site is that very little news was reaching our ears so when we finally heard that there was a computer glitch turning launch status to red we were so nervous! I pulled up NASA TV on my phone but as I was on 3G it was a bit delayed, but better than no information. Phylise Banner, our dear Mothership, grabbed her ham radio so we could listen. They added a highly unusual T-5 minute hold to try to fix the glitch. As we heard, “45 seconds left in the window… 30 seconds left in the window… 10 seconds left in the window…” my heart sank. Could we bear another disappointment?
2 seconds before the window closed we saw the trademark smoke start billowing around the launch pad and everything else was completely forgotten. People started whooping and hollering up a storm, growing in strength as the the tower was cleared and it all became very, very real. We were watching Discovery make her last voyage off of the planet and we were doing this together! That dear orbiter, oldest left in the fleet, first to return us to space after each shuttle disaster, deliverer of Hubble, and temporary home to two astronauts I’d met just over a week earlier was going… going… gone.
It really does happen far too fast and the time seems even shorter when you are there. Adrenaline floods your body, for many of us tears filled our eyes, and a sense of true awe is palpable. There is nothing else like it in the world. Nothing.
Add in these very special people, and the experience goes from the best thing ever to something utterly incomprehensible in the most marvelous of ways.
I watched until she was out of eyesight, then watched a bit longer with my binoculars. I wanted this to go on forever.
Alas, it could not be.
I turned around and hugged Andy, then Talullah Kidd, then a whole bunch of us just piled onto each other in a massive group hug. I found myself in the same state as I was on the day Discovery scrubbed in November, laughing and crying in a chaotic mess of emotions. That struck me as odd at first until I realized that the launch meant this was all over. No more emails from Stephanie. No more planning needed. No reason that this precise group would be together again. Nothing concrete to tie us to each other.
Months of IMs, DMs, and Skype calls ran through my mind. Would all of us continue this even if we had no event to plan?
I like to think we will but the realist in me worries a bit. After all, I’ve lost touch with family and old friends without even a hint of regret. Emotions ran very high between the two parts to our tweetup.
I’m planning to hit the road to see these people and play music for those who wish me to. I’m going to do my part to keep these connections alive. There are even a few people who probably don’t realize what a profound effect they had on me, and these are the folks I wonder about the most.
It’s now been 119 days since our tweetup started officially. I’ve said goodbye to so many people already, including some that I’m having real trouble with parting from. I’m still on the Space Coast and having a great time, even as our numbers dwindle and the approach of “real life” sets in.
Memories and education are the two things no one can take from us and this tweetup has given me both in spades. No matter how hard re-entry may be I am so much better prepared for whatever comes next and I have a small army of support to keep me on track.
Not bad for an event created by a government agency almost no one wants to support, huh?
Wake Up to SpaceUp January 25, 2011Posted by craftlass in space, SpaceTweeps.
Ahhhh… it’s that time again! SpaceUp rears it’s lovely head and gets the space geeks all amped up. This time there are two happening the same weekend, February 12th-13th, the second take on the original one in San Diego and the inaugural one for Houston. I’ll be at the latter myself but know lots of cool people who will be at one or the other, making this one of the major weekends I could really use a clone.
What is SpaceUp? Well, I wrote a post about it before my first one, just my own interpretation of the explanations I’d heard for the people who were asking that question. Having been to one now I have a lot more to say, but my basic advice is: If you are interested in any aspect of space, from Old Space to New Space, from astronomy to planetary sciences, from propulsion to robotics, and far beyond, this is the place to be. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand how it works, you will when the time comes. Nor does it matter if you have no expertise or if you have multiple PhDs, all ages are welcome, and you can wear what you want and even host a session or give a talk if you’re so inclined.
What could be more democratic?
It’s so rare in life to attend an event where everyone is on equal footing even though they represent all spectrums of the community. One of the most special moments at SpaceUp DC was when a 9 year-old boy got involved in a discussion on reaching out to his generation, actually having a child’s input was even more valuable than that from education experts because it didn’t come from a book or school, it was from his heart as well as his mind. His mother told us she knew little of space or science until her son got interested in them and she brought him to try and support his interest as well as she could but was learning a lot herself. To me, this pair symbolized everything SpaceUp is about: Community, open lines of communication, and keeping an open mind about who can have good ideas and what subject might suck you in.
One day in DC I wound up in a session about thermonuclear rockets. Now, I had heard the term before but couldn’t have even vaguely answered what they were if asked. Okay, I could break it down by the name, but it wouldn’t have been a serious answer! It turned out to be one of the best sessions I attended, I learned a lot and want to learn more on the topic. Our big conclusion that day was that they have a PR problem and need a new name, which makes a lot of sense, but requires getting some engineers, PR people, and wordsmiths into the same room, which is a rare combination indeed in almost any other circumstance.
Modern society is very disjointed. We like to divvy everyone up into little groups and then slice those groups up even smaller, building walls between each time. Companies keep the left-brainers away from the right-brainers who are kept away from the executives and the underlings. This is bad, very bad. The best ideas happen when people who seem to have little in common work together as a real team, even if there are serious disagreements along the way. Actually, especially if there are disagreements – those are needed to kill the inevitable bad ideas that crop up and spark a new direction of thinking. Compartmentalization is bad for everyone and everything, at least, in my opinion, and it’s time to break free of this modus operandi.
This is why SpaceUp is my favorite event. It’s living, breathing proof that people CAN communicate across all the artificial boundaries we put up and find ourselves subject to. Even better, the way a lot of that happens is through actual fun! We have fun debating serious topics, we have fun sharing stories and getting to know each other, and then there’s the actual Fun Time built into the schedule. I don’t know much about the plans for San Diego but I am absolutely thrilled to be able to say I will be providing entertainment a few times during the Houston event.
The peak of it all will be on Saturday evening when there will be a party with a great combo of information and entertainment to cap it all off. For more information check out the official SpaceUp Houston blog, in the meantime I’ll just share another chorus of, “I’m sharing a bill with an astronaut!” Yep, that’s right, folks… Clay Anderson, NASA astronaut and superstar twitternaut will be opening up the night with a presentation, I will be closing it with music. Pretty cool, eh? I’m honored that they asked me to play and am working hard to ensure it will be my best performance to date, including polishing up some very new songs to debut for this special audience.
Sorry about the shameless self-promotion here, as it’s not generally why I keep this blog, but I am genuinely excited to both attend and perform to the point where I want to shout about it from rooftops. It’s probably far safer and more effective that I do that here, virtually, rather than in my NJ town… Right? To top it all off, I’m hard at work on a new single to release at the event and a few new songs to debut as well, so I’m extra-hyped up!
I hope to see you there, follow your stories from SpaceUp San Diego, or at least that you’ll log in to the live feeds if you can’t travel to one (thanks to the fabulous efforts of the Spacevidcast crew).
[Update: This post has been crossed posted at SpaceUp Houston's website, thanks to the kind folks over there for thinking my humble post was worthy of inclusion!]
A NASA Tweetupdate December 9, 2010Posted by craftlass in Discovery, NASA, NASAtweetup, SpaceTweeps.
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My last two posts were about the STS-133 NASA Tweetup. My two newest songs were inspired by it, with more rumbling around in my brain waiting to be properly distilled. In the meantime, all of us tweetuppers and launch chasers have been on a roller coaster ride of anticipation and disappointment as the dates for the launch keep moving.
I thought this would be a good time to give a little insight on what it’s like to be a space geek as I go through one of the harder parts of being one.
Here’s the thing: Space flight is difficult at the best of times. When things go wrong they can’t be overlooked, especially when there will be people onboard. The first thing on any real space geek’s mind is the safety of this crew of truly the best and brightest. We know the risks and we want NASA and everyone involved to do what is best for the mission. We don’t matter. What we want is not important. We know this.
This does affect us. Not just us, our family, friends, and co-workers. In some cases it impacts our ability to make money. I’m scared to make plans, book gigs. There is no way that Discovery is leaving on her final mission without me there to wave her off. It doesn’t matter how much it costs or what I have to do to get there, I will be there. So, like everyone else in my position, I eagerly lap up crumbs of information when they become available and shift my plans as the dates change. I’m just lucky I’ve only burned through one set of plane tickets, for the December 3rd window.
Original first day of NASA Tweetup
Original launch date (delayed) (disregarding earlier dates, this was the first one after the tweetup was scheduled)
Actual first day of NASA Tweetup
Next launch attempt
Actual second day of NASA Tweetup (tours)
Next launch attempt (delayed)
Next launch attempt (scrubbed)
NET (No Earlier Than) date for launch attempt (delayed before it was fully confirmed)
NET date for launch attempt (delayed before it was fully confirmed)
Current NET date for launch attempt
Meanwhile, we’re surviving this time just like we survived the disappointment in Florida, together. Virtually, of course, which does have a disappointing lack of real hugs, but is essentially us going back to our usual thing only better, as we are connected to even more people. If planning that trip and being together in Florida was the foundation of our friendship this time is the steel beams that let it become a skyscraper.
We’ve watched a Soyuz land and a few satellites launch together. We followed history in the making with the test flight of the Falcon 9 yesterday. We’ve discussed arsenic-loving “aliens” on Earth. We’ve been eagerly following the exploits of the Meteorite Men together (including my brief appearances in this week’s Wisconsin episdode). We’ve gasped with awe at the images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. We eagerly anticipate the Geminids meteor shower. We’ve debated the best spacey gifts for Christmas. We’ve learned more about how an external tank is made than most of us ever thought we would. Oh, we’ve had lots of distractions! Good ones, too.
Through it all, though, there is that undercurrent of anticipation for STS-133 still. Back before the first attempt, I was excited for the launch itself and the official tweetup events the most. This time, while launch is certainly a top priority, I’m most looking forward to seeing my new family.
We’re on round 3 of making plans together, re-forming houses, debating when is best to buy plane tickets and which airline will give us the best deals on changing them yet again, and trying to look forward while struggling to not let our emotions strangle us.
Me? I’m working on a lot of plans for February and beyond… all the while realizing that those plans may have to change with almost no notice.
You know what? It’s worth it.
Launch to Launch August 9, 2010Posted by craftlass in SpaceTweeps, travel.
Tags: NASA, space
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Easter morning. Normally a morning I’m getting up early to start preparing an elaborate feast for some of my dearest friends, despite my lack of religion, just because you may as well feast when you can and Easter food is tasty. I started this tradition in my “I want to be a domestic goddess” phase and it had lasted 5 years. Yet, there I stood this Easter, nice and early for my flight out of Newark and enjoying the chilly but beautiful weather while waiting to head back down to Florida. I had just finished Above the Sky that week and, instead of sleeping like a smart person, had spent the night before finishing up the sequence and getting it posted to Tunecore and Bandcamp, going straight from one big adventure to another. A perfect way to leave.
It’s rare that you know in advance you are about to have the best 10 days of your life. Normally, the best experiences just sort of come about, they resist planning. Not that I’d planned much. I was jumping on a fairly last-minute flight to go to a state where I had no plans for accommodations and knew I couldn’t afford to rent a car for more than a day. There was about $20-30 in my pocket for food and miscellaneous expenses. This was crazy but utterly and completely necessary. Some opportunities truly are once in a lifetime and you just have to go.
The next morning I was going to see something I had wanted to see my entire life and there were only a few opportunities left. Even better, I would be seeing it from as close as humanly possible. Best of all, I would be sharing this experience with one of my newly favorite people in the whole world. Topped off with the single coolest thing I have ever done in my life (but more on that later…).
Bandcamp was new to me and I didn’t realize the songs would actually go live as soon as they uploaded. As I was about to leave my place I noticed the site was ready to sell and tweeted about it in my excitement. On the short ride to the airport and while I was checking in my phone had kept making a noise I didn’t recognize, which turned out to be the ringtone for my site’s shop email. Sales were starting to roll in already! My mentions inbox on Twitter was packed with tweets about the release, to the point where I almost wore out my thumbs thanking people and answering questions.
Flying without wi-fi that day was pretty much torture. I was actually grateful for the insanely long line at the rental car counter so I had a chance to connect with people before my drive to the Space Coast, except that it was keeping me from an actual in-person tweetup. No matter, I was soon cruising along in the Florida sunshine, blaring Above the Sky and singing to the wind, off to meet amazing friends new and old.
It might have been the best day of my life if it weren’t for the days that followed.
I <3 #SpaceTweeps October 9, 2009Posted by craftlass in NASA, SpaceTweeps, Twitter.
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There are many wonderful things about Twitter that have surprised me. I was highly reluctant to join for a long time, with my friend @souphead constantly nudging me (in a very nice way) to try it out. The moment I got on there, though, I started finding NASA’s official twitterers, which soon led me to “meeting” some SpaceTweeps. The two subsequent shuttle launches were made much more fun by chatting with some of them and, at other times, I started learning a lot more about the space program by vigilantly reading their links and checking out their behind-the-scenes photography. Such fun!