I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to attend several NASA Social media gatherings during the past few years. I first became aware of the events when wife Julie was selected to attend the gathering for the last shuttle launch (Atlantis STS 135). Back then the events were called Tweetups. You can read about her experiences on her blog.
The space agency describes the events as “a program to provide opportunities for NASA’s social media followers to learn and share information about NASA’s missions, people, and programs.”
In short, NASA hopes to generate good social media buzz and reach new audiences by inviting passionate followers — often called ambassadors by NASA staff — behind the scenes to rocket launches and open houses. NASA has become a leader in social media with this effort, only eclipsed by The White House efforts.
These events has been very enjoyable for me for several reasons. I’m a lifelong space nut. Although I have given up on my dream to be an astronaut, I continue to support the space program and be passionate for science and technology. In addition, I’m a social media leader for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and I appreciate the insights into how other government entities handle social media. I also enjoy using social media on my own time. What can I say, I’m a wired space geek.
The NASA socials I have been very lucky to attend are (I’ll add links to my blog posts and photos once I gather them all in one spot):
- The launch of the Juno space probe mission to Jupiter from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base,
- A tour of the Glenn Research Center (Cleveland, Ohio) and a celebration of John Glenn’s orbital flight,
- A tour of the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California,
- A tour of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex at Fort Irwin, California.
The gatherings usually include presentations by staff and scientists and then tours of facilities. Some are tied to rocket launches. Celebrities and notables often drop by for a visit, such as Bill Nye.
In every case, I’ve been impressed with the passion, kindness, and humor that NASA staffers and its contractors have displayed in hosting us and telling us about their work. This has helped me keep the faith in my government and further kindled my passion for science and technology. It has been a delight to meet other smart and intelligent social media fans that also share my interests. To quote Admiral Kirk from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: “It makes me feel young again.”
The unofficial list of NASA social gatherings can be found at the NASATweetup wiki.