Monday, August 8, 2011

NASA Juno Tweetup: preparation and travel

Read my previous (and first) blog entry in the "NASA Juno Tweetup" series:  "Preview of my report"

Juno spacecraft

Ever since the space shuttle launches were happening, I had applied to be a part of the NASA Tweetups.  Spending a couple of days at Kennedy Space Center hearing talks from those involved in the shuttle program, getting a tour of KSC, and watching the launch from the famous Launch Complex 39 press site sounded like a great time.  Unfortunately, I never got picked for any of those Tweetups.  Not even the waiting list.  When NASA decided to hold a Tweetup for the unmanned launch of the Juno spacecraft, my luck turned around.  I applied for the Tweetup fully expecting to not get into this one, but I received an email response stating that I made it to the waiting list.  One week later, my luck really turned around and I received another email saying that I was confirmed for the Tweetup.

Warning: this blog entry might be a bit boring with lots of really specific details, but I figured it will help future NASA Tweetup attendees.  The next few blog entries in my "NASA Juno Tweetup" series will get into the exciting details about my two days at KSC, so stick with me!

I kept up with the Twitter feeds of those who attended the previous shuttle Tweetups, so I knew that even though this wasn't a shuttle launch, it would still be an amazing experience.  Some of the confirmed participants created a Google Group, as well as a Wiki page, and started exchanging messages about travel and lodging plans.  Many of the participants are local to central/east coast of Florida, so they weren't concerned with finding a place to stay.  Those of us that had to travel started looking for hotel recommendations, and some even threw out the idea of getting together and renting some houses together for the week.  This was something that previous shuttle Tweetup attendees started doing.  Unfortunately, due to the fact that I couldn't commit to the Tweetup until about a week or two before it, I wasn't able to participate in one of the shared houses.  It sounds like they really had a blast staying together, but I didn't want to have to dump out at the last minute and leave the other renters high and dry.  I ended up renting a room for three nights at the Hampton Inn in Titusville.  The Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn and Fairfield Inn, all next to each other in Titusville, were all very similar and convenient to KSC.  These three hotels were very popular for Tweetup attendees. 

After I booked my hotel, rental car and airplane ticket (I flew into Orlando), I started thinking about what I would have to bring.  Shannon Moore has a great blog entry with a list of items that she (and others) recommend.  Since I'm an audio visual technician, I was toying with the idea of borrowing a nice video camera from work.  Our Panasonic HVX200 came to mind, but I decided against it since I didn't want to be loaded with an extra camera bag, in addition to my backpack with all my other gear.  I decided to just bring some smaller electronic gear, which turned out to be a great decision.  It kept me light and still gave me all the media support I needed.  Here's a list of the electronics/accessories I brought with me:
  • Laptop with Wi-Fi capability
  • Canon HF20 video camera
  • Canon PowerShot SD1000 digital still camera
  • iPhone
  • monopod
  • extra memory cards and batteries for the cameras
  • all necessary USB cables and power supplies for laptop and cameras
  • USB drives to backup files

Toby helping me pack my backpack of electronics

As for non-electronics that I also packed, these are the items that I found to be essential during my two days of Tweetup:

It was August in Florida, so anything that you can wear and do to keep cool is essential.  The temps were in the mid-nineties and the humidity was crippling.  We were required to wear long pants on our KSC tour, but having the zip off pants allowed me to wear shorts the rest of the day.  The tent that we were set up in was air conditioned, but the AC units just couldn't handle the afternoon sun beating down.  We were sweaty and disgusting by the end of the day, but everyone was in the same boat.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  The day finally arrived for my travel down to Florida.  I flew out on a Wednesday evening after work, so I was very antsy at work all day.  The Twitter hashtag "#NASATweetup" was starting to get some good action from other participants that were either already there, or were also traveling that same day.  I was really starting to get excited.  My flight from Boston to Orlando was uneventful, as was my 45 minute drive from Orlando to Titusville.  I was like a kid trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, but I was finally able to get a little sleep before the first day of the Tweetup.

Sunset from 30,000 feet flying from Boston to Orlando

All in all, the hotel, airfare and car rental wasn't cheap, but totally worth it for the experience.  Years from now I won't remember the money I spent, but I will remember the NASA Tweetup experience for the rest of my life.  Stay tuned to my blog, as I'll be posting more entries detailing my two exciting days at the NASA Juno Tweetup.

Photo courtesy of Ranz Adams

Read my next blog entry in the "NASA Juno Tweetup" series:  "Day 1 - arrival and guest speakers"
See all my pictures from the NASA Juno Tweetup

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