NASA tweetup: 'Shuttle fanatic' fulfills lifelong dream
- November 17, 2009 10:58 AM |
- By Your Voice
Bio: Adam Levermore lives in Sunnyvale, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a graphic designer, sci-fi geek and lifelong shuttle fanatic. He tweets at www.twitter.com/lexigeek.
My take: On Monday, I fulfilled a dream of a lifetime.
Since I was a young boy, I've been fascinated with the space shuttle and I've always wanted to see a launch. With the shuttle program set to be scrapped next year, I knew I was running out of time. So when I heard NASA would be holding a contest for 100 lucky Twitterers to participate in a shuttle launch "tweetup," I jumped at the chance.
Fortune smiled on me and I was chosen as one of the lucky few to see -- and tweet about -- the space shuttle Atlantis as it rocketed off the pad and into the heavens.
On the first day of the two-day event, we went to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and listened to fascinating presentations from people like rocket scientist Jon Cowart (@rocky_sci) and astronaut -- and superstar Twitter user -- Mike Massimino (@astro_mike). After lunch at the visitor complex -- with the obligatory stop at the gift shop to placate jealous friends and family back home -- we boarded buses to see more of the Kennedy Space Center facility. The real treat of the day was a visit NASA arranged for us to go out to launch pad 39A and see the shuttle. We were just a quarter of a mile [0.4 km] from the pad, which is as close as anyone who's not working on the shuttle is allowed to get, and much closer than the general public is usually allowed to venture.
Day two was launch day. We were set up in a tent in the press area, near the famous countdown clock. A few hours before the launch, we got to participate in a long-running tradition: The astronauts make their way to the launch pad in their silver astrovan and everyone along the route comes out to wave to them. They made one stop on their drive -- directly in front of us -- to let some officials off the van before heading off to the pad. We were as close to the pad as anyone not getting strapped into a rocket (or doing the strapping in) is allowed to go on launch day.
After a few more hours of nervous anticipation, at 2:28 p.m., it happened. The shuttle rose up on a column of fire and an incomprehensibly loud sound buffeted my body. You don't so much hear a shuttle launch as you are physically assaulted by the percussive sound. It was as if the shuttle itself was trying to physically imprint the memory of the launch in my brain.
As if I could possibly forget.
This was the fourth or fifth tweetup NASA has held, but it was their first connected to a shuttle launch. I think it's safe to say it was a huge success, both for them and for us. I was going to come to the launch anyway and I would have had a spectacular time regardless. But the tweetup transformed the experience into something downright life-changing. We got the experience of a lifetime, new friends, free souvenirs and access to things the public doesn't usually see. NASA got 100 passionate advocates who will spread the word about the value of the space program. Who got the better end of the bargain?
This was one of those signature moments of a lifetime -- a dream fulfilled, and a passion reignited. I will be eternally grateful to the wonderful people at NASA for giving me this opportunity. And in return, I hope my tweets encourage my own Twitter followers to again get excited about NASA and space travel.
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