Monday, February 21, 2011

They Came. They Saw. They Tweeted

On Feb. 11, 2011, a group of 57 avid space enthusiasts received a rare “behind-the-scenes” glimpse at NASA’s Ames Research Center and then instantly shared their adventure with the world.

These space geeks are also known as “tweeps”—people who use Twitter, follow space-themed accounts, such as @NASA_Ames, and tweet about their love for space.

More than 400 people registered online for a chance to participate in the Tweetup, which included tours of the Vertical Motion Simulator, Future Flight Central, Fluid Mechanics Lab and the Kepler Science Operations Center.

The sky was blue and spirits were high that morning as tweeps started trickling in to the NASA Ames Exploration Center. As Heather Archuletta (@Pillownaut) tweeted, “@NASA_Ames #exo tweeps waiting not-very-patiently for #nasatweetup to begin, LOL! Let's go early! =).”

The theme of the inaugural Tweetup focused on “planet hunting” to coincide with the midpoint anniversary of the Kepler mission. The tweeps started off the day listening to Kepler Deputy Science Team Lead Natalie Batalha, SOFIA Project Scientist Pamela Marcum and David Morrison, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe.

Beth Johnson (@ladypembroke) tweeted, “I must admit that I get excited and a little verklempt when thinking about @NASAKepler. I'm such an astrogeek!”

While listening to Morrison speak, Dom Narducci from Prescott, Ariz. (@dnathe4th) tweeted, “#nasatweetup #exo debunks every 2012 myth in about four minutes. Science Win.”

Morrison shared his enthusiasm for reaching out to cyberspace. “Twitter reaches a lot of people,” he said. “If those people are interested in NASA, Twitter is a great way to talk to them, assuming you can do so in 20 words or roughly 140 characters.”

Don Breedwell (@MrDDon), a special education teacher, traveled from Nashville, Tenn. to tweet back to his students about his experience. “NASA was on my bucket list,” said Breedwell. “I'm tweeting all the things we're trying to do for the future.”

As the day progressed, word spread through the Twitterverse about the Tweetup and at one point, the event ranked fourth in the most-tweeted topics in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Tweetup concluded with a group photo and a visit to the gift shop back at the Exploration Center. Robyn Villavecchia, (@fizzviic) a former Apollo propulsion chemist, tweeted, “After a day at the NASATweetup @NASA_Ames, it is so hard to come back to Earth.”

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