Last month, @NASA on Twitter held a 24-hour registration where entrants could submit their name for a spot in the next NASA Tweetup at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch of STS-134 Endeavour on April 29, 2011 at 3:47PM EST. Out of over 4000 entrants, 150 lucky people were selected for a 2-day package that includes a VIP tour of Kennedy Space Center, talking with the astronauts and engineers, and the opportunity to view the launch from the press area. I was surprised to receive an email from NASA saying that I was one of the 150 picked. Wow!
I received the full Tweetup schedule and itinerary from NASA yesterday and it’s looking pretty exciting. We have a full day on Thursday, April 28th with lectures, a tour of the Kennedy Space Center complex, watching the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure, and more. The 150 attendees are coming in from all corners of the world and we’re all looking forward to meeting one another. Among the Tweetup attendees are actors LeVar Burton, Seth Green, and Clare Grant. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords‘ husband is STS-134 Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly, and yesterday, President Obama made plans to attend the launch. I’m still blown away that I have the opportunity to attend this amazing and historical experience.
STS-134 is the final launch of Endeavour and the penultimate space shuttle flight. The final space shuttle flight is STS-135 Atlantis, which is scheduled to launch on June 28, 2011. After this, the 30-year space shuttle program will be retired. Endeavour has had a long and storied career with NASA, having been part of the first servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and launching the first African-American woman, Mae Jemison, into space. During her swan song mission, Endeavour will be delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. After returning to Earth, Endeavour will be decommissioned and taken to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
Coming from a family with a long history in aviation, (my grandfather was a career USAF officer and both my parents were licensed pilots) we always took family trips to air shows and aviation museums when I was a child. While my mother was a stewardess for National Airlines in the early 1970′s, she was invited to Kennedy Space Center on a VIP tour and sat in the LEM simulator with John Young and Charlie Duke. John Young let her practice moon landings in the simulator and told her she was the first woman to do so.
Affordable tourist space travel may be a possibility in my lifetime, and I’m curious to know what assistive technology NASA has in mind for people with disabilities during space travel. I’d also like to know if a deaf person’s experience in zero gravity would be the same as or different than a hearing person’s experience, so these are questions I’ll be asking NASA next week.
While I will have an interpreter with me, the Twitter updates from the other 149 attendees using the hashtag #NASATweetup will be almost like a live captioning stream for me. Twitter not only helped me get to this event, it will also be keeping me in the loop.
Next Thursday and Friday, April 28-29, I’ll be Tweeting from NASA so keep an eye at @KathrynLHill for updates and photos of my NASA experience. The Tweetup will be broadcast on NASA TV from 12 PM – 1:40 PM EST on Thursday, April 28th. NASA will also be tweeting the event at @NASATweetup. The STS-134 Tweetup attendees have set up a blog and a Flickr group for photos.