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Space Tweep Society

From Vostok 1 to AlexTweetup.

April 12th 1961, early in the morning Yuri Gagarin blasts of at site No.1 in Baikonur. The birth of human space flight started at the same site Sputnik 1 launched in October 1957. Suffice to say that this place has a lot of history. From my birth as a “Space Tweep”, which was September 18 2011, Baikonur has always been a place on my bucketlist. While history in general isn’t so much my thing, the possibility of going to the birthplace of space exploration for sure is.

Most of you reading this have most likely read @timmermansr story about his trip in december 2011. History repeats thus. This time 16 people will be taking part in this trip. Most of us will arrive in Moscow a few days earlier and visit other space related sites around Moscow.

This trip has made me think a lot about our future as humanity. As a few have said before and Charles Bolden recently repeated, we must become a multi-planetary species. This is the story how it started, the red stuff, and no it is not Mars, yet. Different from the right stuff but no less important! People always says that it is this period of time, wanting to be first, that toke us to the moon. It for sure is a fact that can’t be denied. I just can’t help but wonder how we will get from that, to a united federation of planets, which is where my first love of space exploration started. The current state of affairs isn’t the most positive one, although it should not be dramatized. Luckily we have people like Ron Garan who keep their sight at the positive side of this international cooperation in space.

This will be my first rocket launch and what better place then where it all started. If you would like to know which other places we will visit in Moscow, do follow along on the #AlexTweeup hashtag that we will be using on our trip. While it is always the journey and not the destination. I do think Baikonur has never received so many #SpaceTweeps at once. And you can be sure we will be sharing our story’s.


The Space Tweep Society European Branch

@SpaceTweepsIt’s been two years since the European Space Agency (ESA) first opened it’s doors to Space enthusiasts, and already the SpaceTweeps community has grown into a vibrant solid group in Europe, with new members joining everyday.  Inspired by some of the Society’s core U.S. members, who crossed the pond to attend the 1st SpaceTweetup on September 18, 2011 in Germany, the European SpaceTweeps have grabbed the torch and.. have been running ever since!

In the past two years, SpaceTweeps have been invited to more than ten Tweetups in Europe organised by numerous Space & Science Institutions such as ESA, DLR, CNES, OeWF, CERN, ISU etc., and they have spontaneously attended almost all major space related conferences and events on this planet, including the 2012 ISS Symposium in Berlin, Germany, SpaceFest V in Tucson, Arizona and the 64th International Astronautical Congress in Beijing, China. They have also  joined forces with scientists and space professionals in already organizing four SpaceUp un-conferences all over the continent.

While having tons of fun in the process, SpaceTweeps have been spreading their excitement and love for space exploration and scientific research to thousands of people, with their tweets, posts and blogs.  Happily, officials in Europe have not been shy in publicly acknowledging SpaceTweeps’ contribution to increasing outreach and public awareness of their activities on twitter or on their official websites.  ESA was even bold enough to host the second largest European SpaceUp in its Paris headquarters and to promote it on its official website.

The video below was produced, during last week’s ESA/DLR SocialSpace event, by Henning Krause of Helmholtz Association (CC-BY 3.0), who has been fascinated by the Society’s momentum and drive. Many claim that this says it all 😉

SocialSpace interviews: The Space Tweeps Community


#LADEE #NASASocial 2013/09 5, 6

The LADEE social was a magical experience. This is us, Thursday, at the WFF Pad 0B with LADEE.

Space tweeps at Pad 0B

Space tweeps at Pad 0B @NASASocial

The Minotaur launch lit up Chicoteague Bay in a way that’s hard to describe. My visual post image (blind spot) lasted for a couple minutes. And then a few seconds later, the sound rushed over us like the mach boom from a flying Astrodome. Far beyond the sound of thunder.

After the launch, the NASA Social bus was humming with twitter like a twitter neural implant. Amazing.

NASA loves social media because it connects people with their science efforts in a way that’s more direct than conventional media. Charlie Bolden wants us all to know that we’re all a part of the NASA Team. I found this message to have far more force in person, than in video or print. In person it sinks in. It can wash over you like a flat spin. But that’s me.

The hard part about tweetups is matching names and faces and twitter handles in a day or two. If you’re twenty years old this is as natural as rain. But still not easy. Makes me think of a Space Tweep Face Book, but rather than write code I’ll just recommend Google plus. Tweeps on Google plus can share circles. A circle is a list of G+ people that can be used to select sharing and notifications, and can be used for privacy. Image tagging, though, is the thing. A G+ image has a URL, and the tagged image is the visual human – computer interface for matching names and faces and twitter handles and more. On G+ public sharing has ripples, a visual sharing graph, which can be seen for any shared post using the menu from the post’s top right corner.

The hard part about covering NASA is the volume of that space of information. It’s about 8.6 × 10^{38} cubic meters, or the volume of a sphere centered on the Sun and containing the orbit of Pluto.  In other words, it’s not possible to cover it all in any sense.  One approach is to get ahead of upcoming social events with topical material like this bit of homework.

To write that post I started from the LADEE pages and then found additional information using NSSDC and NTRS. NTRS has technical reports that reference science articles. I scan these pdfs for whatever I understand, and just try to remember the parts I do or don’t understand using the terms from each paper. This is enough to illuminate a subject roundly: to note the primary terms and some description of their meaning.

The search I use is a google expression like “ultraviolet visible ladee site:nasa.gov”. This covers everything, and knowing about the resource repositories just helps to sort the search results. The fun part is how useful and effective this work can be.

For me it’s interesting how twitter and g+ are complementary. The reader’s perspective in each of twitter, tweet deck, or g+ is unique in terms of information density. The diversity of topics available per pixel in twitter (tweet deck / columns) is far higher than in g+. The user experience in g+ is good for reading, unlike facebook which is exploiting visual human psychology for a less interesting business model. Google’s economy of scale is better for the user, and Google recognizes the relationship between “organizing the world’s information” and “public trust.”

Correction/ Update (10/10/2013): This writer appreciates this post as a personal one having no legal matter whatsoever to the persons and entities mentioned.  Specifically, when I wrote “Google recognizes” I had no objective or factual reason for saying so — but reached for the stars overhead to express an idea that is irrelevant to the legal world (at large) wherein the private sector entity commonly known as Google has no facility in the public sector.  I thought that was (in the neighborhood of) obvious, but I understand now that I crossed a line if misunderstood (misrepresented) to be a general statement in a larger world than the personal one that was intended.  This isn’t wikipedia, here.  Happy birthday, Peter.

LADEE, first flight to the moon from Wallops Flight Facility

Of course everyone reading this knows about the #NASASocial event for the launch of the LADEE mission to Lunar orbit happening this week on Thursday (9/5) and Friday (9/6).  Follow NASASocial/lists/ladee-launch-social plus @NASA_Wallops, @NASALADEE, @NASAAmes, @NASAGoddard, and also @LRO_NASA for updates.

A nice piece of Wallops history was raised by @TeresaR_WV: “Explorer 9 was the first spacecraft placed in orbit by an all-solid rocket and the first spacecraft successfully launched into orbit from Wallops Island.” (1961, NSSDC).

The LADEE social will be covering a huge range of subjects, including the following.

The LADEE mission will be collecting data on the Lunar Exosphere, specifically tightening the boundaries on gas and dust types and quantities found at altitudes under 50 km so that future work can develop an understanding of the surface boundary exospheric processes that occur on inert rocky bodies like the Moon and Mercury. And the LADEE mission will be flight qualifying the LLCD free space optical communications link. Data collection in the Lunar Exosphere will employ three instruments.

The Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS) determines captured (Lunar Exosphere) gas particle types (element) using a kind of electromagnetic filter called an RF Quadrupole or Quadrupole mass analyzer, or Mass Spectrometer. Instruments very similar to this one have flown on many deep space missions including CASSINI. In determining gas types with fairly high frequency (many per second), gas quantity and distribution can be determined over time.

The Ultraviolet – Visible Spectrometer (UVS) will determine observed (Lunar Exosphere) gas types by the characteristic electromagnetic emission spectra of gas particles impacted by solar radiation. It is also capable of a few additional modes (that I haven’t groked yet) that provide information about gas and dust processes in the exosphere.

The Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) captures larger “dust” particles to determine composition and distribution over time, not entirely unlike the NMS. Also not entirely unlike the NMS, it employs an electromagnetic process to do so.

The NMS and LDEX are forward facing, while the UVS is rearward facing, in LADEE’s direction of flight. That is, LADEE flies sideways relative to its Lunar Capture rocket engine which it points out of the way otherwise.

The NASA TV broadcast schedule includes events on Thursday and Friday.

September 5, Thursday

10 -11:30 a.m. – NASA Social for LADEE Mission Live from the Wallops Flight Facility – HQ/WFF (Education Channel)

3 p.m. – LADEE Prelaunch Mission Briefing – HQ/WFF (All Channels)

4 p.m. – LADEE Mission Science and Technology Demonstration Briefing – HQ/WFF (All Channels)

September 6, Friday

6-10 a.m. –Live Interviews on the LADEE Mission – HQ/WFF (All Channels)

4-6 p.m. – Live Interviews on LADEE Mission – HQ/WFF (All Channels)

9:30 p.m. – Live Launch Coverage and Commentary on LADEE Mission – HQ/GSFC/WFF (Public and Media Channels)

9:30 p.m. – Simulcast of NASA EDGE Live Webcast of LADEE Mission and Launch – LARC/HQ/WFF (Education Channel)

September 7, Saturday

2 a.m. – LADEE Post Launch News Conference –HQ/WFF (All Channels)

The LADEE Mission Pages have info for viewing the launch from the US East Coast, and most importantly how to get involved in citizen science!

Lego Space Sets? You can make it happen!

Hi all! I’m John and for most SpaceTweeps that know me I can be summed up in about two words: Lego and Space!
I’m here to let you know that if you (or someone in your SpaceTweep family) loves Lego bricks AND Space then you can help make more Lego Space sets a reality? Want to see a Mars Rover set? What about a model of your favorite shuttle!? Want to build a model of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft? Well thanks to the fine folks over at the Lego Group, they’ve created a special site and process to let anyone submit designs for a new Lego Set! If the set gets 10,0000 votes, the Lego Group will consider it (based on several criteria). If it’s selected by them for production the person(s) who submitted it will get 1% royalties form the sale of the set. One of the sets selected and taken to production has been a space one, the HAYABUSA spacecraft (http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/439)! Also a Curiosity Rover is under consideration by the Lego Group right now (http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/3431). So, if you’ve been wanting to see more real space sets on the shelves, please go over to the Lego Cuusoo site, search and vote for the sets you’d like to see and buy! Or, even better, submit you own! 🙂
Browsing the site has been known to cause people a sudden desire to go and build with their Lego bricks! I’m not responsible if you decide to take over the living room and build for a few days!


P.S. You can check out my submitted designs here -> http://lego.cuusoo.com/profile/johnmknight#projects 🙂

Hey Space Tweeps! Please tag yourself in this Google-map by @reubenmetcalfe

Hey everyone – thought this would be a useful tool to help connect international Space-peeps on a local level:

Click here to view the map – feel free to tag where you live/work, and any other space-related organizations you think are important

Hope you’re all having an awesome day!


View Space tweeps – Tag your location! in a larger map

Spacetweeps in the Arctic: Join #AuroraTweetup

One of the greatest benefits of being part of the #spacetweeps community are the great events that are organized. These events are the best way to turn a space passion into a true space ambassadorship and many new friends. When joining my first #NASATweetup in 2011 the other attendees told me it would change my life, which I politely laughed away. But wow, were they right! So after #NASATweetup followed ESA/DLR #SpaceTweetup, #CNESTweetup, #AndreTweetup, #SpaceKoelsch 1-3 and a few #SpaceUps. It is great to be in the heart of the best virtual and real life community in the world! (more…)

The importance of telling stories…

Spurred on by @SpaceKate and her recent blog post about the talk in Pontefract by Apollo 16 Astronaut Charlie Duke, I thought I’d post something here as I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past week since the talk.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. My parents watched the first moon landing when they were young. They can both remember it well. I, of course, wasn’t around then. I do remember they dragged me out of bed as an 8-year old boy in 1989 to watch the in-real-time repeat of the moon landings on BBC television to celebrate the 20th anniversary. But still, my connection is to the Space Shuttle, the winged space plane floating serenely above the earth, Challenger, the Hubble telescope and feats like Bruce McCandless’s first untethered MMU EVA (you’ve all seen that picture, right?). This was ‘space’ for me when I was growing up and these are the things that stick in my mind.

Now I have to be brutally honest. I had never had a particularly strong affinity with the Apollo program. While undoubtedly impressed and amazed by it’s achievements and groundbreaking place in history, and admiration for the people who made it happen in such a short time, it sat as just that. An important piece of history. As someone outside of that generation I had no personal connection with the program, the events or with that period in history. A week ago that changed.

Somewhat last-minute I found out that Charlie Duke, the tenth man to set foot on the moon alongside fellow Apollo 16 astronaut John Young, was doing an evening talk at a school in Pontefract in Yorkshire. At first I didn’t know if I could make it, some excuses started to cross my mind, but about three days before the fog seemed to clear in my mind and I heard this loud voice yell “It’s Charlie Duke, he walked on the moon!” (that’s the polite version anyway). Things were catalysed further when I found a cheap room for the night and realised it was only a modest drive from where I live. So I decided to go. Boy I’m I glad I did.

Meeting up beforehand I didn’t really know what to expect. I know the whole thing felt mighty incongruous. For those that don’t know Pontefract, it’s a small industrial town near Leeds in South Yorkshire. It’s claims to fame are having an unfeasible number of train stations (three last time I counted) for a town its size, being wedged between two major motorways and making sour liquorice sweets called Pontefract Cakes. Not much connection to space there! Still, here we were and there it was. The talk was very well organised (thanks to @Space_Lectures) and was held in a large lecture theatre at a local school. When I got in and got a seat the place was already 4/5ths full and by the time the talk started it was almost full to capacity.

What followed was an exciting, animated and enthralling account of Charlie Duke’s life up to and including the flight to the moon and his three day stay there. There are other accounts of the talk and the stories told (@SpaceKate’s blog post put it into words much better than I can) but what struck me was a man that is genuinely still excited about what he did 40 years and countless thousands of talks later, and delights in relaying the tales of his experiences to an audience. This bright, lively talk not only had me enthralled for the whole hour, it also did something else. Hearing about the experience and seeing it for myself through Charlie Duke’s words forged a connection for me to another time and place beyond my own lifetime. As any good story or tale puts you in a place beyond your own, Charlie Duke’s talk transported you to the moon, helped you understand what they did, what went through their minds, what it felt like to be there. After the talk we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to have an item autographed by Charlie Duke and (thanks to @SpaceKate) I had a lovely photo print of him on EVA on the moon ready to sign. That photo is now in a frame on the wall at home. I’ll never forget that evening.

Video not available

In the days since I look back at my fond memories of the talk and feel my view of the Apollo moon landing program has changed forever. It’s gone from an interesting page in history to being something I’ve heard about first hand from an astronaut who went there and did those things. It’s changed my view of the program, of the people involved and of my feelings about it. Something that before I had little connection to I now feel some kind of personal attachment to. Suddenly I want to know more, hear more experiences and know more about it.

This is the importance of telling stories. Stories are mankind’s way of passing our knowledge of these great events down to new generations, for them to cherish and pass on again and again. “I was there” is one of our greatest assets and one of our most valuable sources of not only information but also inspiration. Charlie Duke’s story is a very special one, possibly among the most special of anyone alive today, but lots of people do amazing things and have amazing experiences and never relay their tales. Never believe that no-one is interested. There are always people willing to listen and maybe you’ll inspire someone in ways you never imagined.

Be sure to tell your story and listen to others who have a story to tell…

The SpaceUpEU Story So Far

As September is approaching fast, it will also be almost one year ago that I attended my first SpaceTweetUp. Being ESA & DLR’s first foray herein this is all the more fitting. This is the last place where I need to explain what a SpaceTweetUp can do to a person, so not going there.

So SpaceUp Europe, that’s what I would like to talk about. To me it’s a beautiful full circle story. One of the things that immediately struck me was how a Barcamp like event would be great for this topic/crowd. Little did I now at that time that it already existed and the first SpaceUp had already been held in San Diego in 2010. So one throws up the idea but it stayed with talking at that point. The fun part is that at the same time some US SpaceTweeps that already attended a SpaceUp were also talking to some other EU SpaceTweeps about the same topic. But also here, it stayed as an idea to pick up at a later time.

The next step. At some point before #SpaceKoelsch2 some SpaceTweeps started talking about SpaceUp and doing this in Europe. At this point the 2 groups that first talked separate are now talking together, space unites once again! This was the perfect time to bring it to the table and see which traction it could gather. And traction it did gather! One week later 5 SpaceTweeps were exchanging mails and on January 23 we had our first hangout (G+ is great for this:) together. SpaceUpEU was born! The first EU organising crew consisting of @akanel (GR) @mfrissen (NL) @timmermansr (NL) @travelholic (DE) and myself @JustBe74 (BE), a real European team.

Fun and work, lots of both luckily. I think it’s fair to say none of us really knew on what journey we were embarking. Finding a location (Genk, Belgium) and date (22-23/09) primarily and secondly logistics, sponsors, legal things, set-up registration and so on. This last point bringing us to today. T-1 actually! Starting tomorrow registrations will open for the first ever SpaceUpEU. Another great milestone for us, but for sure not the last. So keep an eye out on @SpaceUpEU tomorrow to be part of it.

To be continued!



#OV101toNYC Tweetup

Sign up now

New York area residents: We are about to get the coolest new neighbor to ever arrive in this area. I am, of course, talking about the prototype orbiter Enterprise, the vehicle that started the wonderful long-running Shuttle Transportation System program by proving you could actually glide back to the surface of the Earth in what’s lovingly dubbed a “flying brick”.

Last week I was lucky enough to be at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to see Discovery (my favorite orbiter) arrive and Enterprise move out of the home where she has delighted visitors for many years. They are things of beauty beyond words, both of them, and I’m still marveling that one will be easily accessible right in the heart of the Hudson side of Manhattan.

In Virginia, NASA hosted a #NASASocial for that event but the incredible part was how many Space Tweeps showed up for what was dubbed the “Rogue Tweetup”. Approximately 200 tweeps (from what I can gather) joined in the celebrations and had a wonderful time meeting each other or seeing friends from previous tweetups, launches, and other gatherings.

The best part of the week, in my opinion, was not the day of the transfer of Discovery to the Smithsonian, but the day she flew over both her new home and the city of DC. Images of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with her precious cargo over the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and other landmarks are stunning and oh, so poignant.

So, think about it: What’s the one backdrop even cooler than those landmarks? The New York City skyline!

As of now, the most accurate plans I’ve heard include flying up the Hudson River past our local landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and her future home on the Intrepid. With this in mind, tweetup ideas have been flying around and it’s time to make them official. As one tweep said, “You can either be in Manhattan and get New Jersey as the backdrop or you can be in New Jersey and get the skyline.” That made it obvious that the ideal location would be Pier A in Hoboken, easily reachable by PATH train from the city, is a major NJ Transit hub, and lacking in city tolls for anyone driving in from the suburbs and beyond (with big parking garages near the site).

The flight has been postponed several times already and is now planned for Friday, April 27th. The timing isn’t exact but I’ve been hearing it should be around 10 am – 1 pm, but Discovery was a half-hour early in DC, so I would plan to arrive between 9 and 9:30 to set up cameras and such. I will keep updating this page if things change again and with more plans as they are formed, so keep an eye on this or follow me or the hashtag #OV101toNYC on Twitter.

Let’s show this bird that New York is thrilled to have her! Sign up here so we can have a ballpark headcount and join the Facebook group if you want to discuss any further ideas. I’d like to do something to celebrate every stage of her arrival, so I will keep the group active until she is installed in her permanent home this fall, at least.

  • What: OV-101 Enterprise NYC Flyover Tweetup
  • When: Friday, April 27th at 9:30 AM
  • Where: Pier A Park in Hoboken, NJ
  • Sign up now


February 8th, 2010. That day will last forever in my memory. It was the day a small group of Space Tweeps gathered in a hotel in Greenbelt, MD in anticipation of the first Goddard NASAtweetup for the launch of the Solar Dynamics Observatory but realized there was no way our tweetup was going to happen due to the “Snowpocalypse”. I casually joked, “Why don’t we just drive down to Florida to watch it launch,” and the next thing you know, we were on our way. That action is precisely what makes this group different from any other I’ve been part of. We don’t just talk and tweet, we DO.

Last night AMC aired the movie Contact and it lit Twitter up with discussions  that mutated into talking about the book it was based on. It turns out a lot of us either had not read it or it had been years since we had. This lead to suggestions of other great books to read and I suddenly thought, “Why don’t we have a book club?” My following tweet about the idea garnered a lot of enthusiastic responses and I’m excited to say that it’s already a reality.

After a lot of research into hosting an online book club and debates with several people about using existing social networks to facilitate it, my-bookclub.com stood out as the best option. Each club on the site gets it’s own discussion forum and chat room and every member can set up their own virtual bookshelf to share what they are reading these days as well as share in the group’s bookshelf. Most importantly, it’s completely free (minus the cost of books if you have to buy them, of course).

There is still a lot of work to be done in organizing this (e.g. how often should we have chats? How often should books be “due”?) but I have great faith that together we will develop this into something amazing and learn a lot from each other along the way.

The first book will be Contact, since it inspired the club, but we will be reading all sorts of books, fiction and non-fiction, that have to do with space and exploration. This is a great opportunity to find books you didn’t know about or just find extra motivation to read the ones you’ve been meaning to read. Anyone can suggest books and we will choose selections democratically after Contact.

Love to read about space and want to participate? Just go to http://www.my-bookclub.com/bookclub/space-tweeps-book-club/ . You will have to join the site first (or sign in using your Facebook credentials) and then make sure to click the “Join” button on the club’s page. You will be added as soon as your request is seen.

Hope to see you there!

SXSW Panel: How to Win Friends and Influence Space Exploration

Yesterday at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival the Space Tweep Society was represented on one of the panels: How to Win Friends and Influence Space Exploration. Though I wasn’t able to be there, I could tell by the numerous positive tweets filling my stream that the panel was very well received.

Great job @harbingeralpha, @mrdoornbos, @absolutspacegrl, @chris_radcliff, and @Astro_Ron!

Here are a just a few of the tweets I found about and in response to the panel: