*Let me just preface this by saying this is the first time I’ve posted for the Space Tweeps, but I blog on my own and my style is a bit… rough. I’m hoping to sound smooth and polished in this entry but if I fail you can blame my blog and it’s encouraging readers.

I grew up in a house with liberal arts-type parents. Neither Mom nor Dad is very “nerdy.” They do, however, have two key elements that I inherited that when combined created a good science nerd: Order and Curiosity. I get my love of organization from my dad. We both obsess over “things to put things in” and would live at the container store if allowed. Both my parents bequeathed curiosity – but my mom pointed mine in a particular direction: Up. I remember listening to her tell me stories about the space race, listening to the first man on the moon, and playing with her big brothers who taught her all about the stars. I remember cold winter nights being dragged out of bed by my mom at 2am because there is some kind of celestial event and we needed to see it… only to get out there and sit in the freezing cold under the clouds, all alone in the dark. Meh, it can’t always be picturesque. I was sure I’d be an astronaut when I grew up. I’m still hoping I will be.

My Mom’s passion for space came from the time in history she grew up in. My uncle takes credit for sending NASA plans to build a multi-stage rocket (at age 9), and she remembers Kennedy’s call to arms for exploration. On those freezing cold nights she passed her love on to me, but unfortunately my generation lacks the push hers had. We need a jumpstart.

NASA is the type of place everyone idolizes (unless you work there, and even then maybe you still do a little bit.) Things that come from NASA are assumed to be good, but exactly how much does the public at large know about us? Not much. This is troubling especially since we are in an age where discoveries are made daily and new technology is constantly being employed; yet the public’s eye is elsewhere.

And along came Twitter.

I’m pleased to say for the first time in a while NASA is on the cutting edge of something the public loves as well. I was honored to attend the first few tweetup events at NASA Headquarters, and followed the STS-129 tweetup closely as well. The idea is brilliant: bring people together around what they love, infect them, grow the crowd, spread the love, jumpstart a generation. I’ve slowly been realizing that the term “community” no longer refers to a local group of people, but rather a group with a common interest or passion. My community extends from Goddard Space Flight Center all the way to New Zealand and back again. Thanks to the (sometimes cursed) internet I can bond with people far and wide, networking and meeting them in person and forming relationships I never would have imagined. Seems so much bigger than just one “Tweetup” event. And it should be.

We (us here at Goddard on the SDO team) are preparing to set our foot in the social networking world this February at the launch of the Solar Dynamics Observatory. This event would mark the first held in celebration of a spacecraft launch, setting a much needed model for after the Space Shuttle retires. We don’t just want to hold a limited attendance tweetup though – we want to invite everyone. This event will happen in four parts: a Tweetup at Goddard Space Flight Center, the birth place of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, launch day at Kennedy Space Center with selected Twitter Correspondents, independently hosted tweetup events nation or worldwide, and school based launch day celebrations. Past tweetups have focused on the location. Yes, we need to meet, we need to be inspired in person. But the fact that twitter makes things instantly accessible worldwide has not been capitalized on, and we are losing the opportunity to inspire millions more.

Through Twitter, Twitterfall, Twitcam, UStream, and NASA TV online independent tweetups can connect to the excitement like they are on site. Schools can talk to scientists, scientists can talk to tweeps, tweeps can report on what they see, and the family in Wisconsin that can’t afford the plane ticket to Goddard can be included in the action. The idea is simple, take the tweetup and make it available to everyone.

Registration for the SDO Goddard Tweetup and Kennedy Twitter Correspondent positions will open Wednesday January 6th at 10am HERE. Participants who make it to Goddard will be treated to inside views and VIP briefings (and lots of swag) and the lucky few who are selected to come to Kennedy will get to watch launch as part of the education and public outreach staff. While those opportunities shouldn’t be missed, think about what you can do in your own community on launch day. If you can’t make it that doesn’t mean you are out, that means you have the opportunity and responsibility to reach out to your neighborhood. Throw a breakfast launch party, take over your library, or come into your children’s school. This is the next step in community science and social media, and we are excited to be a part of it.

Take a look below for some community and classroom ideas, then check http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/epo/sdoisgo/ to register your event!

Launch Your Own Tweetup:

Step 1: Brainstorm ideas for your event
Where will you host it? Your house? The local library? A nursing home?
Will you have other activities? (Like using solar cookers to make hot dogs! Yummm!)
How many people do you want to attend? 5? 30? 200?!? (Ambitious aren’t we?)

Step 2: Register your event and request a starter kit
In the starter kit you’ll get posters, SDO swag, and ideas for hosting your event.
If you don’t “Tweet” now’s the time to start! Register for a twitter account and follow @NASA_SDO. Register your event here! Available through the end of January.

Step 3: Start advertising!
The more excited people are to attend the better turn out you’ll get.

Step 4: Test your Technology
There are many ways to bring twitter and the launch into your event. Choose what works best for you!

Connect to Nasa’s ustream site

  • Watch the event and read the twitter conversation at the same time.
  • You can project this for the whole crowd to see, or use on individual computers.
  • ustream link <http://www.ustream.com

NASA TV website

  • If ustream doesn’t suit you, watch the feed only on this site. It can also be projected for the group.

Local cable nasa channel

  • If you have a TV available, or you can project this to a larger group this will most likely be the best image quality.

Twitter (Hash tag search link)

  • Open this as a separate page to view the conversation. Everyone talking about launch will add #SDOisGO or #NASATweetup to the end of their tweet.

Twitterfall

  • Show the whole conversation in real time, scrolling down your screen using this link. This can be projected along side the live broadcast.
  • Twitterfall link <http://twitterfall.com/

Make sure your location’s security settings allow you to access these sites if you choose to use them.

Sign up for a twitter account if you haven’t already so you can join in the conversation on launch day.

Test out your connections and the websites. Make sure images are clear and you have good audio.

Step 5: Celebrate launch!
Put up launch posters
Wear Sun-themed clothes
Play Sun-themed songs
Serve sunny snacks and drinks
Join in the conversation on Twitter!

Make the event as much or as little as you want it to be, it’s all about celebrating the beginning of many new discoveries!

Step 6: Reflect
Take a few moments to complete the post-launch survey (link will be emailed to you) and get another packet of free NASA goodies.

School Launch Day Celebration: Launch Day Scenario 1:

“The week leading up to launch my 6th graders will be learning about the sun – solar energy, as well as the water cycle and the seasons. I’ve spoken to their art teacher and they are going to make a giant scale model of the sun, Jupiter and the earth and hang it in our school entryway. On launch day I’ve asked everyone to wear something “sunny.” My class is going to join with the 5th grade science class next door to watch the launch projected on a smart board. I’ve signed up for twitter so I’ll be able to post student comments during the event. We also have a list of questions that we will submit for scientists to answer. We are very excited!” – Ms. M, Dayton, Ohio

Launch Day Scenario 2:

“I’m going to have my classes of 10th and 11th grade engineering students research what it takes to design and build a space craft, focusing on the careers that contribute to the space program. We will also be learning about SDO in particular by building the lego model and then making one of our own out of balsa wood. On the day of launch my team and I are taking all of our students to the auditorium where we will watch the live feed on one screen, and twitterfall on another. Some students have twitter accounts so they will be allowed to post their comments using their phones. For students without cell phones or twitter accounts they can call us to do it for them. We plan to blast the Solar Songs over the sound system before the event, and allow students to turn in designs for a solar cooker as extra credit.” – Mr. Z San Francisco, California

Register your classroom and request a packet here!