Dec 11

Mars Science Laboratroy Launch #NASATweetup Blog #2 Thanksgiving - Endeavour - Saturn V - First Day Tweetup

The Astronaut Memorial at KSC

On Thanksgiving Day we returned to Kennedy Space Centre . Jane @jhjones wanted to share with  me the memorial wall to fallen space explorers.  This magnificent structure of polished granite reflected the blue sky, white cumulus, and the American flag amongst the Astronaut names which were pierced by sun beams of remembrance.


Our morning included a pseudo trip to Mars, the Exploration Space experience, and of course mini Tweetups with pink tagged busy Tweeps including @bphuettner @Conductor222 .

Lunch with  the enigmatic #labcoatbear in the rocket garden was unmissable, another opportunity to enjoy some Florida rays and good conversation.

Afterwards a long walk on Cocoa Beach was fresh, warm and therapeutic.  Somehow I resisted urges to run into the sea which was so inviting. This beach is like a gigantic version of Keel on Achill  in Ireland, it included formation flying pelicans adding a Jurassic feel to the wildness.

Flounder with lots of Florida shrimp at the very Hemmingway 'ish   Sunset Waterfront Bar & Grill completed our day, we were joined by some of Jane’s colleagues just after the sun bowed out spectacularly on the space coast.

NASATweetup at the Twent Friday November 25th

At the badging office  circa very early  I met two of the dynamic Stephanie’s @schierholz and  @stephist with @doug_ellison . Then I introduced myself to  the other foreign nationals  including @FailedProtostar for transport to the NASA base.

Fully processed and complete with @LockheedMartin souvenir sweatshirt I came to stand within a few yards of the VAB. The Tweetup Twent was huge and accommodated tightly the 150 Tweetup worker bees 🙂  many of whom were already tweeting away at a rate of knots.  Within a short while I had access to KSCCOMM- PRESS Wi -Fi  via my encryption key - my Twitterportal  to the world was open for business. Trent Perotto @NASA and @NASAJPL gave a welcoming talk and he was followed by Dr Jim Green, and a host of other NASA/ JPL  science and engineering glitterati.  My Tweeting was too my delight being picked up and RT'ed at home in Ireland , in the UK  and USA.  A fast  lunch before an amazing tour of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the VAB, and my  ’ have to see’ moment the Saturn V rocket.

Bus 2 was my ride for the afternoon, our guide was a wonderful passionate young woman Kimberly Goudace. I have to admire the professionalism of all NASA and JPL staff who together made the Tweetup event an unforgettable experience. If any of them had to be at their work at 4am, 5am, 6am they were on duty with a smile and a positive attitude even if they were in unfamiliar time zones.   Kimberley did not even have a job; she was a former Space Shuttle engineer who still carried out her work to the n’th degree.

As we walked through the VAB her enthusiasm and knowledge filled the enormous void as she led us to the penultimate surprise, a close up view of Endeavour. This shuttle was being prepared for  its museum 'shelf life after space' trip to California.

The Saturn V experience for me was joyous and profound, nothing could have prepared me for the encounter and size of this lets go to the Moon vehicle.  My first reaction was how will I get this into my camera? Then I made a spontaneous unscripted video
( below in my website link) where all my knowledge of the rocket went out the window as years of anticipation poured out forever.

At launch pad 34 we were kindly allowed to walk around and ponder the loss of life at this place.  The past’s devastation visible in deconstructed remains of tormented concrete and twisted metal.

The beautiful sunset light yellowed the bareness and touched our souls as crepuscular rays created nature’s memorial to the Apollo 1 astronauts lost to a fire in the challenge of exploring space. LAUNCH COMPLEX 34Friday, 27 January 1967 18:31 Hours


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Dec 11

Blog #3 Mars Science Laboratory #NASATweetup Silent Rocket Timewarp - Lunch Video

Mars Science Laboratory on top of an Atlas V Rocket

On the evening pre launch NASA tour we were privileged to stand within 150 yards of the Atlas V with MSL perched on top. Silhouetted against the sun this 191 foot assemblly of scientific ambition   stood  a little less than half  the height of the Apollo Saturn V. At 363 feet The Saturn V  was the largest rocket ever built and is more comparable height wise to the familiar  stainless street sculpture the Spire of Dublin which is  398 feet.

After an unlimited photographic bonanza we left the launch pad to head back toward the Vehicle Assembly Building.  On our journey groups of red haired hogs appeared , munching in the evening grass as the sun set on an unforgettable day.
Ahead, an invite to a Marstini party and a visit to an Observatory. The party was in a suburban house were everyone seemed to take it for granted that there was a swimming pool in the patio.

The Gale House (named in honour of the landing place for MSL  Gale Crater ) was occupied by a large group of Tweeps who had somehow managed to put a very cool party together. It was nice  to meet up with other folks who had been in touch with me via Twitter before I left Ireland. @TashaVerse such a good welcome , Jen Scheer @flyingjenny said hi because @commanderbyrne had told her too oh !! what a twangled world the Twitterverse  is. 🙂 @Joi_the_Artist showed me some of her richly coloured drawings while I sipped my Marstini before being introduced to @MarsCuriosity and several others  whose @  names have escaped me.  After some delicious food, I headed to the BCC Planetarium and Observatory with Jane  @jhjones for to join in the public evening. The indoor Moon set up impressed me, I wanted to bring it home to Ireland.

In the observatory we looked at Jupiter through a 24 inch scope, while soft spoken astronomers called out the positions of Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. On the roof I looked at Orion rising on its side, the words of Robert Frost’s poem never  rang so clear and true.  The constellation looked like it had fallen down the sky, or perhaps it was me who had tumbled down the planet. The sideways view caused by the clockwork artistry of the workings of the night sky.

Next morning I was picked up at 6am on the dot by @Stephist and was twittering away by 06:25.

@TheScienceGuy Bill Nye  looking very dapper spoke about everything . The chief administrator of NASA Charles Bolden gave an impassioned talk about MSL being the precursor of future  human Mars missions.  Lori Garver  the deputy administrator  of NASA spoke with great excitment. Astronauts Leyland Melvin @Astro_Flow and  Doug Wheelock  @Astro_Wheels conducted the astronaut only sport of 'let’s have a midair chest crash just because we can' ,  and  William James Adams @iamwill joined them to speak  about education . The Black Eyed Pea star has invested millions of his own dollars in educational programs for young people. @Camilla_SDO said hello to me at the mornings Eyes on the Solar System demo. During the launch group photo that cheeky chicken came flying through  the air for me to catch so it could preen its feathers bang on centre of the photo front row.

At T minus 30 I hugged the blow up MSL beside the countdown clock and was then asked to give my thoughts to camera by Lou Braga @Photog4NY so I did.  It was very surreal to be there beside this iconic digital clock as I had watched it for years on TV following various launches from Apollo to that pending moment.   5, 4, 3, 2, 1 the moment was real, the Atlas V with MSL ascended in silence. I looked at it rise and in that muted moment my past present and future merged. The sound followed and engulfed me totally. I watched till the smoke trail dissipated into imperceptible particles before returning to continue tweeting. After spacecraft separation and a huge cheer in the twent,  I sat down at my table.  54 years of tears decided to pick that moment to flow. I knew then  I was in the right place in my life.

On the plane home as I eased back time to my reality the winder came off in my hand, a timeless moment but for me time had truly stood still when the silent rocket left this planet for Mars.

MSL launch video

More images here on my web site blog

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