Monday, August 1, 2011

NASA Tweetup Pt. 2: Astronauts & Astronuts

Flying in over the Gulf of Mexico on July 6th, reality hadn't really set in. I tried to convince myself that I was, in fact, going to Florida, to see a space shuttle launch. Despite my best efforts, thoughts of the events to come couldn't quite force out the thoughts of our imminent water landing and demise.
Gulf of Mexico, via airplane
The Gulf of Mexico, from the airplane 
After touching (safely) down in Tampa, I met up with a couple of my housemates – @Thatgirlallie and @whoisgregg – who were driving in from Tampa. We talked about how we came to the tweetup, went through the slowest drive-through imaginable, and ended up picking up another one of our housemates who was stranded at the Orlando airport @j4cob). We dropped our stuff off at #DiscoveryHouse, met a few more of our housemates – @MeganPrelinger, @CaliforniaKara, and @LisaAMcGill – and went off to listen to a band at an Irish pub.

Now, I also didn’t understand why we were going to an Irish pub while in Florida, but it turned out that the band has several members who are – I kid you not – astronauts.

That’s when reality started to sink in.

Cady Coleman (@Astro_Cady : STS-73, STS-93) on the flute,
and Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield : STS-74, STS-100) on guitar (left).
 Photo graciously from @AdamZ .
We met up with the other houses in the area – #OmegaHouse and #HC39A – as well as our last housemate, @SWGlassPit, and began getting to know each other. It was much akin to meeting any group of people – where are you from, what do you do, what brought you here – except the answers ranged from “I’m just an administrative assistant” to “I’m an engineer for NASA.” There were lifelong space geeks fulfilling childhood dreams, and space enthusiasts there for the conversion - I mean, experience. The diversity of the those attending was impressive, and made for a well-rounded and inclusive community.

One of the most impressive things about this community is its eagerness to teach others and share information, without being condescending or pretentious. (In this manner, I found SpaceTweeps much akin to GeoTweeps.) But what impressed me the most was that, despite wildly disparate backgrounds and knowledge levels, everyone met each other on a (mostly) level playing field: having this incredible opportunity to get excited over the space program, meet incredible people, and watch the historic final launch of the space shuttle.

Much as we had a lot to talk about that night, we ended the evening fairly early: it was time to rest up for the eventful days ahead.

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