Space, the Final Frontier

Once upon a time I started a travel blog as I was trying to win a trip to Antarctica. I didn’t win the trip, and the barely updated blog petered out. I never had all the great adventures I was hoping for, but there was one pretty cool one. I went to a space shuttle launch! Because it was such a cool experience I’m going to repost the shuttle posts here. Originally posted Sunday, April 25, 2010: Even colder than Antarctica… Space!

No, I’m not going into space (although, how freaking awesome would that be?).

I’ll be doing the next closest thing – watching Space Shuttle Atlantis on her final launch into space.

And I’m going to have an AWESOME view of it! The closest place the public can view a launch from is about 6 miles away on NASA property from a Causeway if you purchase tickets from Kennedy Space Center.

I’ll be watching her take off from only about 3 miles away! Yep, yours truly will be seeing her first ever Space Shuttle launch from the Press/VIP/Family area. And of course, the Moose will be there with me too.

The only way to see a launch closer than I’m going to is to be strapped into a seat on the shuttle herself.

Now, I know you all realize I’m awesome, but I’m sure you’re still wondering how I managed too pull off something THIS cool. Twitter. I’ll be there because of Twitter. That wonderful little site that I’ve been using for over 3 years. The one many of my friends pick on me for, saying it’s useless and who cares about what everyone had for breakfast that day.

You see, I follow a HUGE range of people on Twitter. I started out following mostly podcasters. Some local geeks started using it. I found more interesting people by seeing who my friends were chatting with. Then the celebrities & businesses discovered it. Oprah & Ashton? Whatever. I had little to no interest in them before Twitter, I certainly don’t care that they’re on it. I follow the cool and interesting celebrities like Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) and Wil Wheaton (@wilw) and Adam Savage (@donttrythis). I also follow lots of geeky businesses & info sources – Wired Magazine (@wired), Think Geek (@ThinkGeek), Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) and NASA (@NASA). There are also a bunch of astronauts on Twitter.

Almost exactly one year ago to the date that I’ll be watching Atlantis launch, I saw this Tweet in my Twitter stream: “From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!” 3:33 PM May 12th, 2009 via web. It was Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) sending the first ever Tweet from space. How can you not be enamored with the awesome geekiness  of Twitter at that point?

Flash forward to earlier this spring. My sister & her husband made plans to go down to Florida with their 5 year old twins in May to see one of the final Space Shuttle launches. They said they wished we could go too. My husband said he’d dreamed of seeing a live shuttle launch since he watched Columbia lift off on April 12, 1981. Well, we played with the finances and made it happen. A short trip to Florida with a small window to catch the launch. Fly down Thursday night, watch the launch on Friday, fly home on Monday morning. We’ve got two extra days if the launch is only delayed one or two because of weather.

I was already psyched about this trip. I’m planning the best way to photograph it. We decide to try to get Causeway tickets because it is the best opportunity for me to get a great photo of the launch. Then, on Twitter last week I saw that @NASA was going to have a Tweetup (Twitter speak for a gathering of Twitter users.) You just had to sign up, and they would choose 150 people at random.

At 11 pm last Wednesday I received this in my inbox:

Dear Sharon Snyder, Congratulations, your registration to attend the STS-132 Tweetup on May 13-14 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been selected! The two-day event will provide you with the opportunity to speak with shuttle technicians, engineers, astronauts, and managers and to view the launch of space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station that is targeted for 2:19 p.m. EDT, May 14. The Tweetup will also include a “meet and greet” session for participants to mingle with fellow Tweeps and the team behind the tweets from @NASA.

I was on cloud nine until I realized that I was indeed flying in to Florida on May 13th, but not until 11pm. And you had to check in and participate all day on May 13th or you’d forfeit your Tweetup registration for the remainder of the event (i.e. the launch on the 14th). My mood crashed because I wasn’t sure it would be remotely affordable to change my plane ticket to the 12th. Then I learned where we would be watching the launch from and I resolved to try. Rick agreed that it was the chance of a lifetime and if possible I had to do it. Then I found out even though buying a one way ticket to Orlando on the 12th was only about $100, it would be $230 to change my existing ticket. I wasn’t sure we should spend that much. But in the end it was decided that we had to. The opportunity was just too amazing. So, after a roller coaster day of “yay!” “argh!” “yay!” “argh!” it ended with very much a gigantic “YAY!!!”.

So, thanks to NASA, Twitter and my awesome husband, I will be having the experience of a lifetime on May 13-14th. Two days of geeky fun.

This doesn’t, however, mean I’m not going to keep trying to travel. Maybe not to space, but I still want to get out of North America! Until then, I’ll just keep enjoying the ride.

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