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17 January 2014 @ 03:33 pm
I'm going to a rocket launch!  
Some time ago I saw a notice on a mailing list about something called a "NASA Social," which is an opportunity for people who follow NASA on social media to attend a NASA event and meet each other in person. In this case the event was the January 23 launch of the TDRS-L satellite from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But you can't just show up -- you need to put your name in a hat and hope it gets drawn. I had never considered attending one of these before, but this one didn't conflict with anything that couldn't be rescheduled, so I submitted my name through a web page and then forgot all about it.

But then last week I got an email from NASA: I was one of 50 applicants randomly selected to attend the launch! I have to pay for my own transportation, food, and lodging, but... rocket launch! So I'm going!

In addition to the launch itself (assuming everything goes as planned), which will be a night launch and therefore spectacular, there will be a whole day of meet-and-greet with NASA scientists and engineers, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral, and hanging out with other space geeks. I'm jazzed.

The TDRS system (it's pronounced "teedris" and stands for Tracking and Data Relay Satellites) is a network of geosynchronous satellites which provide nearly continuous high-bandwidth communication with spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit, including the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station, and TDRS-L will be the 12th one launched (hence the letter L). Space geeks of a certain age (or who have seen The Dish) may remember that in the early days of the Space Age contact with orbiting spacecraft was intermittent and was available only when the spacecraft was over a ground-based relay station; the TDRS satellites and associated ground stations make this problem a thing of the past, so this launch is important because it provides support for a whole bunch of present and future space development.

You can expect serious tweetage and bloggination from the event.

Kalimac: puzzle kalimac on January 18th, 2014 12:52 am (UTC)
First you were on Mars, then you're to attend the rocket launch. A little out of order, but really cool nonetheless!
Kate Schaefer: First Icon kate_schaefer on January 18th, 2014 01:03 am (UTC)
Oh, what David said.
David D. Levine: space helmet davidlevine on January 18th, 2014 01:26 am (UTC)
I've never been one to do things the easy way.
joycemocha joycemocha on January 18th, 2014 04:30 am (UTC)
Sweet! Enjoy and take pix.

ETA: It occurs to me that now you must update your Mars slide show....

Edited at 2014-01-18 04:30 am (UTC)
David D. Levine davidlevine on January 18th, 2014 06:38 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, I've given my Mars talk for the last time. It was always half-improv and after doing it for a year it got harder and harder to remember all the details. There are a couple of videos of it online, though.
Smofbabe smofbabe on January 18th, 2014 11:23 am (UTC)
How exceedingly cool! We got to see a night shuttle launch during a Smofcon in Cocoa Beach and it was fabulous even without all the exciting background stuff you're getting to do. Hope you have a great time.
Carl carl_allery on January 18th, 2014 04:49 pm (UTC)
Congratulations, that's a very cool opportunity. :) I'm sure you'll have a great time and meet some interesting people.