January 12, 1997: 15 year old me is sitting in the wee hours of the morning with my family on the grass in Florida staring at a platform lit up by spot lights. The excitement builds with each reducing number in a countdown and I watch as 7 astronauts live out my dream: to go up into space. 3, 2, 1, LIFTOFF of the Shuttle Atlantis. STS-81 turns the dark night into an eery green daylight. Getting to actually watch the shuttle launch is an experience I have never forgotten and still nearly brings me to tears just thinking about it. I dug out our vehicle placard and some photos we took of the launch (and me on the tour - I am the goofy one in the hat in the center). Glad I saved the placard from way back then!
14 years later, technology has advanced, time has moved on. I pursued my dream of being an astronaut for a while - I attended and graduated from the US Air Force Academy in those pursuits. Dreams rarely play out the way you hope and the years have certainly dampened my pursuit of that particular dream although I still desperately would love to go into space I now have a family and am traveling and living around the world with the military. I got out of the Air Force and am now an amateur astronomer/astrophotographer and mother. The former keeping my head in the stars and the latter keeping me firmly planted on Earth. NASA has changed and the shuttle is nearing the end of its magnificent life. One last Shuttle launch. Atlantis flies once more. STS-135 is set to take off on July 8, 2011 and I cannot express how much I wanted to see the Shuttle launch one more time. The past 14 years have kept me busy and unable to return to the Florida coast for this despite many attempts to do so.
NASA has embraced the social media craze that has engulfed our society. They now hold Tweetups where they invite a fortunate few followers from Twitter to attend once-in-a-lifetime events held at various NASA facilities throughout the country. VIP tours, talks from engineers, scientists, astronauts, behind the scenes first-hand looks at the inner workings of NASA. In short, the best 2 days ever for a Space geek like me! I heard about these shortly after I joined Twitter and began applying for the launch ones as well as the ones held at Johnson Space Center. I was living in Texas at the time and had planned to go see Mission Control before we moved regardless but fate intervened and accepted me to the STS-132 JSC Tweetup. I have blogged about that experience and still get giddy when I remember it or look at my pictures. Sitting in the chair of the Flight Director for the Apollo missions, getting to see astronauts train in the NBL ... SQUEEE!!! :) I was never one of the fortunate ones, however, picked to see a launch from the Press Box and get the inside tour of Kennedy. As the Shuttle's lifespan comes to a close it has gained popularity and each Tweetup got more and more applicants. We were down to the final launch. I had moved to England again with the Air Force so being able to drive over to see it regardless became difficult. I applied for the Tweetup regardless as well as for tickets for the launch. Why not, right? The odds were not in my favor but I had to do it anyways. Despite telling myself that I should not get my hopes up, I did. So when I got the rejection letter for tickets I was a bit bummed. Then the day for Tweetup selections came and went and not only did I not get an acceptance email, I got NO email whatsoever. They send out at least rejection letters regardless so I was beginning to think my application didn't go through - I was a bit upset but went ahead and sent them a message inquiring, just in case.
A response via Twitter raised my hopes again: "You're on the waiting list for #NASATweetup. We'll look into where the email might have gone." Not accepted, but not rejected!!! 5500 people applied. Only 150 got the invite with another 150 being Wait-listed. Odds were still not great, but I had made the first cut!!! A week came and went with me following all the excitement of those selected and trying to join in - this was an exciting event whether I got to be there or not! As the #s of original invitees creeped up I realized that it was not looking good. I resigned to the fact that I wouldnt be going to the Tweetup but was going to still be excited about the launch, follow those who were going, and enjoy the last launch of the Space Shuttle.
I go out to an afternoon date with my husband while my daughter is in nursery school since he has a random Friday off. Enjoyable afternoon - nice lunch and good movie. All thoughts of NASATweetup are temporarily gone .... until I get home and check my email. This is staring at me from my inbox:
|photo credit: Nathan Bergey|