Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The NASA Invite

I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to Twitter, even though I've had an account for years. I finally started following people and companies that post interesting enough stuff to draw me back to my Twitter feed day after day, so maybe that's what it takes to get started. From there, I've been little more than guessing as to how to react to Tweets, links and pics I like. Some get posted on my pinterest boards, some I share to facebook, and some I reTweet (known as RT) or quote in a semi-original tweet. Still, I wasn't entirely sure what the value of Twitter was until last week.  The reality is, I would not normally check websites of the companies and organizations I admire all that often, but a quick little tweet from NASA sent me packing - literally!  

NASA posted a link inviting us to apply for a social media pass to visit Kennedy Space Center and watch the March 1st launch of SpaceX's Dragon.  The application was pretty straightforward: name, email address, social media links.  Mind you, this happened prior to me even starting this blog, so I used my startup's blog and many of my personal accounts, like LinkedIn, facebook and Twitter.  So either I did something right, or they accepted almost everyone, because last Friday I saw the email accepting my application and telling me how to proceed.  

Then it dawned on me that the launch was a mere week away, and I would have to leave right in the middle of some important stuff for work.  How could I possibly make it?  And then there was the expense; the hotel and rental car were not bad, but the flight was much more than what I usually pay when I book in advance.  I suddenly felt overwhelmed, with everything I had going on (afterall, I was helping with an APICS Southwest District Meeting and then I had my inaugural brewery tour for my startup coming up), and I just didn't think I could swing it.  I told a few people about the opportunity, and their responses were all along the same lines: "Why are you even thinking twice?  You have to go!"  

Okay, yes, I admit this is pretty freakin' cool and it is something on my life list, so of course I'm going to go.  But even as I booked my travel plans and asked for the time off from my manager, I still had an aching doubt that I wasn't really al that special and that I was somehow being suckered in to paying an exhorbant amount of money to see a pretty "normal" event for NASA.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it, that's just how I felt.  I am totally stoked to see a SpaceX launch, since I'm a big fan of Elon Musk, from Tesla to his audacious challenge to commercialize space travel and offer to help Boeing with their battery problems.  Additionally, it has been on my life list for years to see a space shuttle launch, and when the space shuttle program was retired, I knew I'd have to suffice that requirement with something like this.  On the other hand, I've also always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to bring my one or more of my nephews and niece to such a launch.  So I guess part of me was disappointed that I couldn't bring guests, and bothered that here I was spending all this money to go alone, and that I would have to spend it all again when I bring them.  

In IMing with a colleague today, I got some clarification as to why, at least for my own personal reasons, it is important that I go.  What I realized is that there is so much mystery around NASA launches; sure they post information on their website, but they also tell you that dates are subject to change and it's hard to plan a trip around a slushy date.  And there are so many more questions around the launches; where can the public view them, what can you expect from launch day, how does it all work, what can the kids do, is there a way to meet people prior, are there public lectures in the days prior to launch?  NASA's website attempts to answer some of these, but there's so much uncertainty that I guess I've allowed that to hold me back from planning a trip with the kids.  My colleague mentioned something to the same effect, and I realized, that is what I am to do.  I am going because of my social media presence, as piddly as it may be, and I should honor my hosts with a strong drive for information gathering and to then write about it and make it easier for future visitors to plan their trips around launches.  This will, of course, also help me in future planning when I do decide its time to take the kids, and I will feel much more knowledgeable having gone to a launch and been informed by NASA and SpaceX themselves.  

So, I leave tomorrow afternoon for Florida, and I am every bit as nervous as I am excited, but at least now I have my own mission.  Wish me luck, and I'll see you on the flip side!

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