Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life Changes (Or How the End of the Space Shuttle Program Became the Beginning for the Rest of My Life)

Just four short months ago, NASA Tweetup provided me with amazing access to experience the launch of the last space shuttle, Atlantis STS-135, in Florida from the press area of the Kennedy Space Center. I got to meet so many amazing people from all over the world, both NASA employees and participants barring witness to this historic event. It was a privilege to be a part of it all.

Coming back to my "normal" life after such an surreal experience was not easy. I had been awakened from my slumber of everyday life. And I found myself examining the status quo of all aspects of my life. Deciding to make big life changes (moving, marriage, babies, etc.) can be easier to avoid and ignore when you are just stuck in the routine of everyday existence. Suddenly, Scott (my boyfriend of eight years) and I were having serious discussions about babies, moving, marriage, buying a big house together...things we've talked about for years. Talked about, but not acted upon.

At the end of July, Scott, his dog, my two teenage sons, and I all had a lovely vacation at a house in Traverse City, Michigan that we'd rented right on the lake with a private sandy beach right out the back door. Discussions continued with Scott about buying a house together (even though we both owned and lived in two separate houses just a street apart from each other.) As soon as we came back from vacation, Scott and I looked at a house we'd already fallen for online. It was over 4000 sq ft (twice the size of both of our current houses combined.) The next day we took my boys to see it too. We all loved it. This was now the first week of August and Scott was off to his own NASA Tweetup adventure for the Juno launch (How lucky were we to both get to be apart of NASA events?!) As soon as Scott came back from Florida, we made an offer on the house. Unfortunately we ended up in a bidding war for it, but we won it!

In September, we closed on the new house (still owning both of our other houses!), got engaged (complete with LEGO space shuttle prop built by Scott), and started planning for our wedding on November 11, 2011.

4 Month Life Changes Timeline

  • Beginning of July - Last Shuttle Launch Tweetup
  • End of July - Vacation in Traverse City
  • Beginning of August - Scott's Juno Tweetup. See new house, make an offer, and prepare to move.
  • Middle of September - Close on new house, move to new house, plan for wedding
  • November 11 - Get married
  • Near Future - Sell and/or rent out the other two houses we own!

Really amazing how the end of the space shuttle program became the beginning for the rest of my life.

And I'm still not done reshaping my future. All those hopes and dreams I've shelved away are being dusted off. I've always believed that happiness is found along the way and not at the end of the road. Enjoying the journey...that's how I keep choosing to live my life.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Shuttle and Tuttle

My hometown newspaper The Herald Bulletin ran a nice article on July 16, 2011 about my NASA Tweetup and shuttle experience. The image above was from the paper's homepage.

You can view the story on their website here: Here are also PDF versions of the newspaper's homepage and full story on A3.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Smile Because It Happened (Launch Day) - July 8, 2011

Post on July 8, 2011

Atlantis lit up in the predawn. I took this shortly after arrival.
After only a couple hours of light sleep, I woke up to my iPhone's sci-fi alarm at 2 a.m. We had been instructed yesterday (Thursday, July 7) to check to see if NASA was going to fuel up Atlantis. And sure enough, even though there was only a 30% chance of the weather being good enough for Atlantis to launch, she was being fueled up. By fueling up the shuttle this meant if NASA had to scrub the launch later that day there would be a 48 hour delay until the next launch attempt.

As I got up in the darkened hotel room, I hoped that I wouldn't be too tired to enjoy the main event of the day still scheduled for 11:26 a.m. EDT (and that the shuttle would actually get to launch!) Staying at an average hotel room in Titusville, my total stay of 6 days there was costing over $1200 for a room that usually goes for about $60 a night. I had booked the more expensive hotel to quiet my nagging fear of missing the launch while stuck in traffic trying to drive in from Orlando, where I had originally booked a hotel stay for a much cheaper cost.

I was also still trying that morning to arrange a ride into the tweetup since my boyfriend and kids would need the car to catch their boat ride out to the Banana River where they would be viewing the launch. Luckily, David let me hitch a ride into KSC with him again. In turn his girlfriend hitched a ride with my family.

VAB parking lot still fairly empty at 5 a.m.
As we left around 4 a.m. traffic was already starting to get bad, and hundreds of people were already waiting in the Astronaut Hall of Fame viewing area miles and miles away from the launch site. We also were seeing a bright glow on the horizon in front of us and wondered if it was the shuttle being illuminated at night. Upon our arrival back to the VAB parking lot, the lot was still rather empty but in the press area, tons of media were already filling up every available inch of space. And then we were greated with a beautiful site. Atlantis was lit up like a Christmas tree on Christmas morning (see above photo.) It was such a beautiful sight to receive in the early monring hours before the big present of the launch would, hopefully, be delivered to everyone.

Lori Garver made another appearance in our tent at the start of the day. I was surprised that she and other high profile NASA officials were coming to talk to us when surely they were very busy and about to have an incredibly hectic day. Just yesterday Angie Brewer, the flow director for Atlantis, had spoken to us even though she was scheduled to be prepping the space shuttle at 1 or 2 a.m. today. It was also surreal to see these NASA people show up in our tent and then moments later appear on the live NASA TV playing in our tent to address the media.

Here was the schedule of events for the big day:

Friday, July 8/ Launch: Tweetup Day 2
6:30 a.m. – Robotic Refueling Mission demonstration
7:00 a.m. – Group picture beside the countdown clock (Click link to view the photo. Can you spot me?)
7:05 a.m. – Astronaut Tony Antonelli, STS-119, STS-132
7:40 a.m. – Tweetup wave to the crew as they drive by in the astrovan on their way to the launch pad
8:00 a.m. – Bob Crippen, STS-1, STS-7, STS-41C, STS-41G
8:30 a.m. – Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett, 45th Weather Squadron, U.S. Air Force
11:26 a.m. – Launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-135 mission

Me with astronaut Tony Antonelli
The weather wasn't as bad as it had been yesterday, but we were still getting rain on and off and on again. We went out to wave to the STS-135 astronauts as they were heading to the launch pad. Here is a photo from that:
The astronauts van in front of the VAB
After waving to Sandy, Rex, Chris, and Doug, I almost missed seeing astronaut Bob Crippin when making my way back to the tweetup tent. I was able to catch most of his discussion and shot this brief video of him.

Astronaut Tony Antonelli also spoke to us. He is learning Russian and going through a battery of physicals and tests to be in line for a launch on the Soyuz. 

Seth Green was at the NASA Tweetup event for the launch of shuttle Atlantis STS-135 too. Seth introduced the STS-135 theme song composed by Bear McCreary (creator of Eurkea and Battlestar Galactica's theme.) During the song, I recorded the live NASA TV stream that was playing in the tent as it was showing the STS-135 astronauts getting prepped for launch.

I also got to speak with Seth and tell him how much I enjoy his work. I told him that my sons and I really enjoy Robot Chicken Star Wars. He cringed a bit, looked concerned, and asked, "How old are your kids?" I  said their teenagers, 14 and 16 years old. He looked a bit more at ease but said, "That's right on the age line."
Me and Seth Green. He took this pic with my iPhone.
I wish I'd had something cool for Seth to sign like my Robot Chicken DVDs, but I didn't. At least I got a picture with him. I knew I'd need that to get credit with my teenagers. When my sons heard about me meeting Seth they were envious. I laughed when my 14 year old said to me later, "I hear Seth is concerned that I like to watch Star Wars Robot Chicken."

We were all getting very anxious for launch. On NASA TV we were watching the astronauts getting ready for the launch. Some NASA officials came into the tent to let us know that things were looking good with the weather for the launch. Soon thereafter people started to make their way outside. I had been frantically trying to charge up my video and still camera batteries. I was also having a last minute panic when my video camera SD card was full after recording the Bear McCreary song. I was so glad that I found out before the launch that my card was full rather than during the launch..

I made my way outside to check on the status of my tripod that I had set up when arriving that morning. There was someone who had set up a tripod directly behind me (that never showed up) as well as a crush of photographers on either side of me. Another NASA Tweetup person was near me too. The professional news photographers were rather rude to us NASA tweetup peeps, but I stood my ground. I wasn't going to move now and miss the launch. Besides, I'd staked out this spot a long time before they had shown up.

Waiting for the launch, I was very quiet. Some people were screaming. Others were making small talk. I was just taking it all in. I didn't want to forget this moment. I was also nervously fumbling with my video camera and borrowed SLR camera (which was constantly acting up.) While waiting for the launch I drafted a quick tweet: Ready for launch! Godspeed Atlantis.  .

Here is my video from the launch:

The launch was spectacular! I had fortunately remembered to get my sunglasses from my purse moments before the launch. A delay happened at 31 seconds to launch, I wondered if that was it. Was it all going to end without a launch?

Then NASA made the decision to go for it! The countdown started again. A small cloud could be seen rising from the launch pad, and then almost in slow motion at first the shuttle started to rise into the sky.

There were moments that the exhaust flames were brighter than starring at the sun. I tried to take some pics and record the best video I could while not spending the whole time looking into either of them too much. I'm not a professional photographer or videographer, but I still wanted to have my own digital memories of the event. I also wanted to watch all of it with my own eyes. And it was all going by soooo fast!

Atlantis was high in the sky when the sound started to reach us. I was expecting it to be extremely loud maybe like a jet engine, but it was so much more intense. It started off just like a extremely loud jet engine noise. Then it became more so much more than just sound. It was a vibration and sound. I could actually feel the sound. There was a fluttering and rattling sensation happening inside my ribs and chest from the was amazing!

The cloud cover was very low so Atlantis disappeared into them rather quickly. We were not able to see the separation of the solid rocket boosters as this happened after they went into the clouds. I was slightly disappointed that I would never see that happen now, but I was also still recovering from how amazing everything else was that I had just witnessed.

The weight of the day had suddenly hit me. All of the history of this area. The astronauts had safely launched. It was the end of the shuttle era. This was my first and last shuttle launch. I hadn't jumped up and down. I hadn't yelled. I had just experienced it. I had just absorbed it all. After filming some more of the clouds and taking a few more pictures, I gathered up my tripod to head back to the tent to see what was happening on NASA TV.

I was starting to feel some tears coming into my eyes, but then I thought, "Don't cry because it is over. Smile because it happened." I came across another tweetup person whose name I don't recall because I was still recovering and processing everything I had just experienced. We chatted excitedly about what had just happened. I only realized later that my video camera was still recording so I have audio of that shuttle launch afterglow conversation.

Back in the tent we could see that Atlantis was making its way safely into low Earth orbit. It was amazing to think just moments before we had watched them take off and now they were in outer space. I had a tweet I had composed outside that I was still trying to send out because the wireless and 3G network had briefly gone out most likely from everyone trying to connect at the same time. Here is my tweet that finally went through: Amazing!!! Amazing!!! Amazing!!! Liftoff Atlantis!!! Last shuttle launch ever and my first one ever!!! Thank you, thank you 

We got to stay in the tent awhile longer working on our photos, videos, and thoughts as well as tweeting away the afternoon. From M&Ms we got special limited edition (only 160 made) tins containing M&Ms with the date, shuttles, and 3,2,1 liftoff printed on them. We also got pins and shirts from My 16 year old son told me later that NicoNico was the Japanese version of YouTube.

At one point Trent Perrotto, a NASA public affairs officer, made his way over to our table. At our table was @DavidJulyan @KellySchwark @GrizzGuy @GoodGadd  Perrotto wanted to know what we thought. I was still babbling about it all being amazing...I wore out the word amazing that day.

Some people started to leave the tent. Stephanie and John invited people to come up to the mic and share their thoughts. Lots of us stayed and listened. I think a lot of us might have stayed there all day and into the night if they would have let us. And then like the not-so-subtle hint you give to a house guest that is overstaying their welcome, we were told, "Feel free to stay, but we're shutting off the wi-fi soon."

I figured out a ride off of KSC grounds. While waiting for my ride out, I stood outside in the press area soaking in my last few moments there. Most of the media had already left. Somewhere in that press area field I lost my NASA button that I had gotten five years earlier on my first visit here. My small offering to the NASA grounds. It seemed like more than a fair trade.

On our way out to the VAB parking lot, we saw that the doors to the VAB that are normally closed were wide open and music was floating out into the steamy Florida afternoon. Jimmy Buffet was playing live in there. The NASA employees were having a big party to end all parties. I'm sure this day was very emotional for NASA employees on many levels. Some would no longer have a job after this final launch.

30 years of space shuttles had been a good run. Now we must look to the future...may it hold even better space adventures for all of us!

Find more of my pictures from this day on Flickr:

Shuttle Atlantis STS-135 Predawn - July 8, 2011

Also be sure to check out NASA HQ's Flickr account at: 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Best of Times and Worst of Times - July 7, 2011

Post from July 7, 2011

The first day of the NASA Tweetup started very early, before sunrise. I had arranged to carpool with two other space tweeps (Nicole from Canada and Jeremy from Twitter) who were staying at hotels in Titusville near where I was staying too. The driver, Nicole, experienced an unexpected delay. She still needed to get her badge, but when she showed up at 5 a.m. for her to get it...they did not have her information. Without it she would not be able to drive us to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) parking lot near the press area and tweetup tent. Luckily while there we ran into a super nice and helpful Englishman, David Julyan (a film composer), who was also attending the NASA Tweetup. He offered to give Jeremy and I a ride. [It took Nicole several hours, but fortunately she got things straightened out to attend.]

We arrived at the Vehicle Assembly Building parking lot and on the walk over I snapped this picture of me with VAB in the background. The VAB is huge! It houses the space shuttles between launches. The american flag painted on it is enormous. To attempt to grasp the large scale of the building, just the blue star field area of the flag is the size of a regulation basketball court!

The sky was very gray that morning and a few rain drops were already falling on us during the walk to the press area and the tweetup tent. The rain would only get worse as the day progressed. On the walk over I started meeting other participants including Shannon who, although not a NASA employee, is the defacto den mother of these tweetups.

We also got introductions from many of the wonderful NASA people making this event possible like @schierholz @yembrick @bethbeck @jtownsI had met Stephanie Schierholz in person yesterday when getting my badge. She has done a lot of amazing hard word to get NASA to embrace social media and hold these tweetup events. Beth Beck came over to the table I was seated at along with Jeremy, @pillownaut, @s_boots, and @aewrght.) Beth is working on the wonderful Fragile Oasis website (  with @Astro_Ron Garan who is currently onboard the International Sapce Station. Weeks early before even applying for this tweetup I actually follwed a live tweetup given by Ron on Twitter from the ISS, and I had found out then about some of the exciting work and positive changes that Fragile Oasis wants to bring to our planet. Lori Garver, the Deputy Administrator of NASA kicked off the event (her picture at leftt) and Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters (his picture at right) also spoke to us.

Here is the schedule for the Thursday events (even though things got pretty off schedule after the the Elmo and astronauts presentation because we were having a severe thunderstorm with lightening, and we were not allowed to leave the tent for over an hour.)

Thursday, July 7/L-1: Tweetup Day 1
  •  Tracy Thumm (@ISS_Research) and Justin Kuglerm (@ISS_NatLab), International Space Station Program, NASA's Johnson Space Center spoke to us
  • Elmo, Sesame Street (@SesameStreet) interacts with STS-109 and STS-125 Astronaut Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) and STS-120 Astronaut Doug Wheelock (@Astro_Wheels)
  • Massimino and Wheelock answer questions from the tweetup participants
  • Angie Brewer, space shuttle Atlantis' flow director, Kennedy Space Center
  • Lunch at the employee commissary
  • Board buses for Launch Pad 39A to view the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure.
  • Tour inside of the VAB
  • Visit to the Apollo Saturn V Center

Here are some photos from the morning:

Me with astronaut Mike Massimino
I was sitting so close I was able to get in the picture!

Mike Massimino, Sesame Street's Elmo, and Doug Wheelock

I have about an hour of video with Mike Massimino, Doug Wheelock, and Elmo that I've uploaded to YouTube in multiple parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. NASA was also airing this live on ustream, and their recording of it is available here: Doug stayed with us throughout the day and had so many amazing stories to tell us.

It was still very hot, muggy, sticky, and raining outside, but after the torrential rain and severe lightening storm had passed we were able to go eat lunch. Joining me at my table for lunch were Jason Snell (Editorial Director of Macworld) and Teresa Isaac (a former mayor.) One of the incredibly cool things about this event were all of the interesting and successful people from all different professions and walks of life that I was getting to meet and talk with during the tweetup.

Because of the terrible whether we weren't sure that we would get to see the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) retraction that would revel the shuttle Atlantis. Fortunately there was a break in the rain, and we were able to head out to see Atlantis on the launch pad!
Rolling up to Atlantis on launch pad before RSS retraction

Me with Doug Wheelock right before RSS retraction

Atlantis on the launch pad after RSS (to the left) was retracted

Me with Atlantis

After getting to see Atlantis up close, we got back on the buses to go tour the inside the VAB. Being able to go inside the VAB is something very special since only NASA employees typically get access and not even reporters are often not allowed such access. Since the building is so large, I have posted a video here that tries to give a glimpse of the vastness of it.

This day had so many amazing moments and went by so quickly, I cannot possibly capture it all in this one post. I called this post the best of times and worst of times because there were so many wonderful experiences and events (the best of times) however I looked terrible from being rained on all day. It was hot and I was very sweaty so every picture of me looks really awful (the worst of times.) I have lovely "swamp hair" in every photo to immortalize such an amazing time in my life. Yet, I wouldn't trade anything that happened during the day, and it was an amazing day that I will never forget.

We left KSC this day not knowing whether the launch will scrub or delay on July 8. We've been told that if Atlantis starts fueling at 2 a.m. then we should expect them to try to launch on Friday. We are allowed back at the press area as early as 5 a.m. And with traffic expected to be terrible with a million people trying to watch the launch we'll be leaving very early to drive back. I'll be getting up very early again if they start to fuel Atlantis at 2 a.m.. No (or very little) sleep until launch, I guess.

To view more of my photos from this day, go to my photos from that day at NASA Tweetup - July 7, 2011

Day Before NASA Tweetup - July 6, 2011

Post from July 6, 2011

Today was the first day we were allowed to pick up our NASA Tweetup credentials so that is what I went to do right away in the morning. I got a schwag bag full of all kinds of NASA goodies including posters, toys, freeze dried ice cream, and STS-135 patch, pin, and sticker. (You can see more of it here on my Flickr account.)

I also got a free two-day admission to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC.) Our next stop was the KSC visitor complex  to get Scott and my two sons admission tickets so we could spend the day there. We watched the IMAX Space Station 3-D movie (which we’d seen before) and the IMAX 3-D Hubble movie (which we've been wanting to see for a long time now.) The Hubble movie had amazing imagery and featured an astronaut, Mike Massimino, who is a scheduled speaker tomorrow, July 7 at the NASA Tweetup!

We shopped at the gift shop where I bought way too much stuff--since I’d already ordered stuff online from home before the trip too-- including more shirts, hats, and a really cool pair of shuttle earrings. After viewing a few other exhibits, we then caught a bus to go out to the observation area near the shuttle which as close as regular visitors to KSC can get to see it on the launch pad.

Here is a photo of my sons, Matt and Ethan, with shuttle Atlantis in the background behind them in the distance.

We then made our way out to Cape Canaveral to see the SpaceX Dragon Spaceship on display. SpaceX has former astronauts working there in cooperation with NASA's commercial space division. They are working on private spaceships that might just be the future of American spaceflight.

You can view more of my photos from this day:

Monday, July 11, 2011

NASA Photos Uploaded to Flickr

I've got some photos uploaded to Flickr from my time at Kennedy Space Center on July 6-8 for the NASA Tweetup and shuttle Atlantis STS-135 launch. You can check them out here:

I'm working on still tagging them all, but I've at least got them semi-organized into sets.

More to come...

Friday, July 8, 2011

NASA Tweetup and Launch Day for Shuttle Atlantis

Both today and yesterday have been so an amazing that it will take me some more time to pull together all my thoughts, photos, and videos from the truly once in a lifetime experience that was this NASA Tweetup for the last shuttle launch ever.

Yesterday was the first day of the NASA Tweetup. Today was the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis. So many amazing things happened so quickly that I will have further blogs posts to share all of that very soon.

For now I'm sharing here some raw footage I shot from today of the liftoff. It is very jittery but still amazing. The sound and the bright blast were beyond words. I'll have much more to share later after I've finally gotten a bit of sleep :)

Shuttle Launch Video

Monday, July 4, 2011

Florida, I'm Back!

The long road trip from Indiana to Florida started on Sunday. After spending way too many hours in a car, we arrived today, July 4 at our destination at a hotel very near the Kennedy Space Center. I reminded my boys that unlike on our car ride to Florida that when the astronauts went to the moon they traveled in a capsule smaller than our car, and they couldn't even get out to stretch their legs until they reached their destination on the moon.

The road trip was a bit of deja vu as we (my boyfriend and kids) had spent a family vacation in Florida last year in July visiting the Universal Studies theme park and the new Harry Potter attractions. We drove last year, my first time driving to Florida. It was a long drive then too. And it was very hot at the theme parks. The running joke last year was that we wouldn't vacation on the sun again next summer. And by vacation on the sun we meant anywhere that gets very hot in July, like Florida.

I really don't mind the heat, but I seem to be the only one in the family. We also agreed that the drive to Florida was too long so we would never do that again and instead fly when coming back to Florida again (preferably in a cooler month.)

Well never say never...Against pretty high odds, I was selected for this amazing NASA Tweetup experience, and so here we are again. And with the excitement of this adventure in front of me, the drive didn't seem quite so long this time. Plus, driving sure beats the price of trying to fly four people to Florida and back! Seeing the last shuttle launch and this NASA tweetup experience is priceless...however paying to get here and stay here is quickly becoming very expensive.

It is good to be back in Florida though. I really love the weather here (again, I don't mind the heat, and I love the water, sand, and palm trees.) I'm also glad that the boys will get to experience the Kennedy Space Center again. I took them to KSC for the first time five years ago (my first trip there too.) It was Florida in June that time, and we got to see a shuttle on the launch pad which was really cool...but we weren't around for the launch.

Before I was selected for the tweetup, we had planned a vacation this summer to stay in northern Michigan on a lake. I'm glad we still have that relaxacation coming up because I will probably need another vacation just to relax after all of the excitement of this one! We got our itinerary of events from NASA today, and it is packed full of wonderful experiences and events.

Here is a brief overview of the itinerary that NASA sent us today:

Thursday, July 7/L-1: Tweetup Day 1
10:30 a.m. – Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters (NASA TV starts
10:50 a.m. – Elmo, Sesame Street (@SesameStreet) interacts with STS-109 and STS-125 Astronaut Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike)
11:10 a.m. – Massimino answers questions from the tweetup participants
11:30 a.m. – Tracy Thumm (@ISS_Research) and Justin Kuglerm (@ISS_NatLab), International Space Station Program, NASA's Johnson Space Center
11:50 a.m. – Angie Brewer, space shuttle Atlantis' flow director, Kennedy Space Center
1:15 p.m. – Board buses for Launch Pad 39A to view the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure at 2 p.m.
3:15 p.m. – Tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, including visits to the Apollo Saturn V Center and the Vehicle Assembly Building and a drive by the Launch Control Center, Mobile Launch Platform and Orbiter Processing Facility.

Friday, July 8/ Launch: Tweetup Day 2
6:30 a.m. – Robotic Refueling Mission demonstration
7:00 a.m. – Group picture beside the countdown clock
7:05 a.m. – Astronaut Tony Antonelli, STS-119, STS-132
7:40 a.m. – Tweetup wave to the crew as they drive by in the astrovan on their way to the launch pad
8:00 a.m. – Bob Crippen, STS-1, STS-7, STS-41C, STS-41G
8:30 a.m. – Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett, 45th Weather Squadron, U.S. Air Force
11:26 a.m. – Launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-135 mission

I'll make sure to document and post as much as can of this amazing week to share with everyone on this blog as well as Twitter and Facebook. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Shuttle Story

Since being selected to attend the NASA Tweetup STS-135 for the final shuttle launch, people have been sharing their shuttle stories with me. I'm keeping this blog to share my shuttle story too.

As a storyteller, I enjoy when people share their stories with me. The shuttle stories I've been told so far are fascinating. I'm also amazed at how many people have connections to NASA or affiliated agencies. People have shared their shuttle stories with me about night launches and scrubbed launches. I've heard about astronauts and aerospace workers. There have also been poignant memories shared with me about the Challenger and Columbia tragedies.

All of these people sharing their shuttle stories with me gave me an idea. NASA's space shuttle program is ending after 30 years, but the memories and stories will remain as long as we keep sharing them. So why not give people a place to share their shuttle stories?

It is still a work in progress, but so far I've created a few easy ways for people to share their shuttle memories and stories.

When was your first/last time seeing a launch? Did you see a night launch? Miss seeing a launch because it got scrubbed? Work on the shuttle program? Just watched on TV? Whatever your experience, you can share your shuttle stories here:
So share your shuttle stories. And feel free to let me know what you think about this shuttle story sharing idea.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Media, Tuttle, and the Shuttle Adventure

Today was a good day. The local newspaper in Muncie, The Star Press, ran a nice article about my upcoming NASA Tweetup and shuttle adventure. Check out photos from the print edition below, and see the online version of the story here.

The Star Press - June 24, 2011
Front Page (That's me in the top left corner!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NASA Tweetup Preparations

So much has been going on. I've been very busy trying to prepare for the NASA Tweetup. And there is still so much I need to do. It seems I don't go to bed before midnight anymore because I've got so much going on. I've been running on adrenaline since the announcement that I was selected, and I'm sure that will continue through the event in July.

I've never really been one to self-promote myself, but now I find myself telling people to follow me on Twitter (I'm @julieanntuttle) so they can be a part of this amazing experience too, albeit vicariously. I have a meeting on Wednesday (gosh, it's past midnight again, so later today) with a local reporter who wants to do two stories on my adventure, one before and one after the event. I'll make sure to provide a link to those stories once they are available.

I'm so excited to share this experience with people who will not be there with me which is one of the reasons I am keeping this blog. Additionally, there are so many amazing tweeps that have also been selected to attend this event, and I am eager to meet them all in person. One person is putting together a documentary (, and I still have an "assignment" to make a video introduction that I hope to do today sometime. This is becoming like a second job : -)

All us NASA Tweetup peeps have already been talking through Twitter and a Facebook group so it may be surreal when we all finally meet in person. All 150 participants selected for the STS-135 NASA Tweetup  have very interesting backgrounds and a wide range of experiences. Getting to share this awesome event with such an amazing group of people adds a whole other layer to the experience.

On Friday, I'd done a shout out on Twitter to all of the STS-135 astronauts you can follow on Twitter. I mentioned I'd be there to see the launch in July. One of the Atlantis astronauts, Rex Walheim, (find him on Twitter @Astro_Rex) sent me a tweet back that said, "Enjoy the launch. We'll try our best to go on time!" Of course, now I have to tell people that astronaut Rex tweeted to me. If you're a space tweep, you'll understand my nerdy excitement about such a cool moment. And if you're not I hope you'll follow me on my adventure, and you'll get you excited about space too!

NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Announces Retirement

Captain Mark Kelly an astronaut with NASA since 1996 announced his retirement today from the U.S. Navy and NASA effective October 1. He has served his country with honor.

Kelly understandably wants to spend more time with his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as she continues her recovery following the Tucson tragedy. Even though many, including myself, knew little about them before that terrible day, people across the nation and the world now hold a special place in their hearts for the couple. I wish them all the best and look forward to reading the book they plan to work on together.

Included in his announcement was a wonderful sentiment that sums up the importance of continued space exploration and the crucial part NASA plays in leading us into the future.

"I know that as our space program evolves, there are those who will question NASA's future. I am not among them. There isn't a group more dedicated to its mission or more capable than the outstanding men and women of NASA. Exploration is a critical component of what makes our country great. We will continue to explore and NASA will continue to lead that effort."  - Captain Mark Kelly on June 21, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

NASA Tweetup and Last Shuttle Launch Guide

I’ll be using this blog to chronicle my experiences with NASA Tweetup. On this blog you can keep track of what I will being doing in the weeks leading up to the NASA Tweetup as well as when I am at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 7-8, 2011. I'm sure I'll have lots of amazing photos and videos to share here. Make sure to follow me on Twitter at @julieanntuttle for updates too.

Since getting the amazing news from NASA exactly a week ago that I would be seeing the last launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends, family, and co-workers about this tweetup event and the shuttle launch. To answer some of those questions, I’ve put together a list of resources you can use to keep up with the last shuttle launch and the NASA Tweetup event.

What is a NASA Tweetup?
A Tweetup is an informal meeting of people who use the social messaging medium Twitter. NASA Tweetups provide @NASA followers with the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at NASA facilities and events and speak with scientists, engineers, astronauts and managers. NASA Tweetups range from two hours to two days in length and include a "meet and greet" session to allow participants to mingle with fellow Tweeps and the people behind NASA's Twitter feeds. Registration for NASA Tweetups will be announced on Twitter @NASA and @NASATweetup. (Taken from NASA website.)

What is STS-135? Each NASA launch and mission has a designation. Atlantis is on mission STS-135 to the International Space Station.

NASA Tweetup STS-135 (aka Atlantis Shuttle Launch Tweetup) -  information about the STS-135 NASA Tweetup registration and event.

Google Map of STS-135 – show locations of Tweetup activities at KSC. Also contains locations of the 150 national and international attendees.

NASA Tweeps Selected to Attend STS-135 Tweetup - attendees of the #NASATweetup at Atlantis' launch, targeted for July 8, 2011. (Look for me @julieanntuttle)

NASA Tweetup Wiki – excellent one stop resource of general information and links to attendee lists, images, blog posts, projects, etc.

Resources to Find Out More about NASA’s Launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis

Official NASA STS-135 Mission Information – Contains astronaut crew profiles along with mission overview.

NASA on Social Network Sites - Lists websites and social media where you can connect and collaborate with NASA.

STS135 References Wiki – Links to lots of resources and information.

CBS News Space: STS-135 Flight Data - Contains extensive list of launch windows, detailed technical specs, and a countdown clock.

Launch Photography – You’ll of course find lots of great pictures here. If you plan on seeing the launch in person, there is also a very helpful page about the best places to view a launch.

Google Map of Best Places to View the Launch – Over a million people are expected to view this historic last launch. If you are planning to go, you better have a plan.

Space Shuttle Atlantis – On this NASA webpage you’ll find lots of information about the Atlantis shuttle.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Making Difficult Things Look Easy

I’ve always been impressed with NASA, but my admiration has mostly been about all the stuff that goes along with space exploration. And there is no shortage of impressive stuff that comes into my mind when I think about NASA. When someone says NASA, the obvious associations are astronauts, astronomy, ships, suits, stars, planets, probes, rovers, rockets, moon rocks, exploration, experiments, and on and on.

Since I am a marketing and communications professional, I really appreciate what it takes to make things happen like this NASA Tweetup. NASA is doing great things with social media, event planning, media relations, and their websites (they recently won at the Webby awards.) So along with all of the wonderful space stuff they do, I am now adding social media pioneers, PR professionals, and Web wizards to the list of things I admire about NASA.

The other night I was listening to an excellent interview with NASA’s spokesperson and social media manager Stephanie Schierholz about their PR and social media strategy and tactics. The interview runs about 60 minutes, but it is a very interesting peek into how NASA manages over 200 social media accounts, astronauts tweeting and checking in on foursquare from space, and the management of their very popular Twitter @NASATweetup events. Check it out here:

Today I listened to an interview with STS-135 pilot Doug Hurley ( discussing the upcoming Atlantis launch. He mentioned something that I deeply admire and understand when he said that launching people into space isn’t easy. Launching people into space is a difficult business, but they just make it look easy.

Making difficult things look easy. This is what professionals do. This is what separates the super successful from the rest. Making difficult things look easy isn’t easy. It is the result of a lot of planning, training, and countless hours of unseen hard work. And it often can go under or unappreciated because it looks easy.

I mentioned Web wizards above because I sometimes joke at work about my magic wand. During my many, many years of working on websites and having quite a few of them recognized for national awards and recognitions, I’ve realized that most people still do not understand or appreciate the amount of work it takes to create high quality websites. I don’t use a magic wand. But making difficult things look easy can make it look like magic to others.

The people that work at NASA are making difficult things look easy everyday. I’m glad I’ll get the chance to tell some of them in person very soon that I admire and appreciate all the hard work they do to make it all seem like magic. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I was having a typical workday on Friday, June 10 filled with assorted tasks and meetings until something not typical happened to me. I got an unexpected email that soon had me literally (and yes, I know what literally means and I do mean literally) jumping around my office with excitement. It is not everyday that you get an email from NASA especially one that starts with "Congratulations, you have been selected to attend the NASA Tweetup on July 7-8 for space shuttle Atlantis. The event will provide you the opportunity to speak with shuttle technicians, engineers, astronauts, and managers, and to experience the launch of space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station."

I'm one of only 150 tweeps that love NASA and use Twitter (see that have been selected for an amazing experience meeting NASA professionals, exploring the Kennedy Space Center, and then witnessing history with the very last space shuttle launch ever.

My mind is still racing with everything that this wonderful opportunity means both personally and professionally. Besides seeing a shuttle launch for the first (and last) time in my life, I am already feeling this experience is going to mean so much more than I can even imagine right now.