Do you have an interest in the space shuttle program? Did you marvel at it when you were a kid and dream about being an astronaut and floating in space? Would you like to meet an astronaut? Are you a Twitterer who follows NASA?
Did you follow my tweets and blog posts about the incredible experience I had during the NASA Tweetup in April followed by the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour in May? If so, read on, but quickly. If you’re reading this beyond noon EDT on Thursday, June 2, you’re a little late so I hope you’re reading this before then!
Twitter users who follow @NASA, @NASATweetup and other NASA accounts have an opportunity to participate in the NASA Tweetup and witness history with the last space shuttle launch targeted for July 8, 2011. After 30 years, the space shuttle program is retiring with the final launch of Atlantis on its STS-135 mission to the International Space Station.
The Tweetup is scheduled for July 7 and 8 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Registration opens Wednesday, June 1 at noon EDT and will be available for 24 hours. More than 4,100 registered for the STS-134 NASA Tweetup. Those interested in registering can visit www.nasa.gov/tweetup.
What’s the NASA Tweetup Anyway?
NASA defines a Tweetup as “an informal meeting of people who use the social messaging medium of Twitter.” As a NASA Tweetup participant for the STS-134 mission, which was the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, I can attest participating is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Over the two days I soaked up the program NASA scheduled which included presentations and interactions with NASA engineers, scientists and astronauts. Importantly, there was interaction with other Twitter users who have an interest in the space program and with NASA’s social media team. The Tweetup also included a tour of the Kennedy Space Center including access into the Vehicle Assembly Building.
A tent was set up in Kennedy Space Center’s press site, which is located about 3 miles from the space shuttle launch pad. The tent is wired for wireless and has plenty of electrical connections.
Best Advice if Selected for the NASA Tweetup? Flexibility!
The best advice if you’re one of the 150 selected for the NASA Tweetup is to be flexible. The July 8 launch date is the target date and not official until the Flight Readiness Review on June 28. Even then, the date may change due to weather and mechanical issues, as happened during the Endeavour launch, originally scheduled for April 19, pushed back to April 29 and delayed to May 16.
NASA Tweetup attendees were invited back for the rescheduled launch of space shuttle Endeavour on May 16, 2011. The day before, those of us who returned saw the rollback of the retracting service structure (RSS) at Launch Pad 39A. We were about 600 yards from Endeavour.
Launch day, we watched Endeavour’s final flight from the press site. Some of us chose to watch it from the water’s edge behind the countdown clock while others stayed in bleachers behind us.
What About Accommodations for NASA Tweetup?
When booking travel accommodations, find an airline flexible in changing flights and know a hotel’s cancellation policy before booking. I’m fortunate to live in Florida so I didn’t have to worry about flights but many NASA Tweetup STS-134 attendees booked with Southwest Airlines which did not charge them change fees.
Almost immediately you’ll see a strong online community develop for the STS-135 Tweetup. Chances are, Twitterers will come together and rent homes or condos which can reduce travel expenses.
I stayed at Royal Oak Golf Resort & Golf Club in Titusville (www.royaloakgolfresort.com). It offered a great rate, spacious accommodations and nice setting on a golf course. Rooms can’t be booked online so give them a call. It’ll be worth your while! (1-800-884-2150 or 321-269-4500)
If accommodations are booked on Florida’s Space Coast including in the communities of Titusville and Cocoa Beach, consider Orlando which is located less than an hour away or Daytona Beach, located about an hour north.
How Are NASA Tweetup Attendees Selected?
Registrants must be at least 18-years-old, have a Twitter account and follow NASA Twitter accounts as @NASA and @NASATweetup. If selected, Tweetup attendees must be able to travel to the Kennedy Space Center on their own dime.
Attendees will be selected at random and will be notified by email.
Additional registrants will be placed on a waiting list to fill the spaces of registrants who cannot attend the NASA Tweetup. They will be notified by email, too. My best advice if you’re on the NASA Tweetup wait list? Be patient! It’ll be hard, I know because I was on the wait list. I checked my email about every five minutes and followed and tweeted with the #NASAWaitup and #NASATweetup hashtags until I received notification I was in. Boy, that was an amazing day.