Preparing for STS-132 Tweetup

Posted by Arlo on May 12, 2010 under Postcard Valet, Travel

Boarding my Alaska Airlines flight in Juneau

It’s Tuesday night.  I’m flying red-eye from Juneau to Orlando for NASA’s second-ever Shuttle launch Tweetup.  Seems like a good time to jot down what you can expect from me over the next few days.

I should be arriving at my Orlando hotel around noon on Wednesday, right about when this entry auto-posts, I suspect.  I’ve got half a day to recuperate from the jetlag and, in addition to enjoying an afternoon nap, I plan to tackle a few errands.

First, I need to experiment with a creative tripod solution for launch day.  I have, literally, four cameras at my disposal – not counting my iPhone! – and one thing I learned at the last launch is that one tripod is not enough.  To that end, I want to rig up some sort of contraption that lets me focus two or more cameras at the same subject – the Shuttle, obviously – so that I’m then able to pan and tilt them in tandem.  That’ll solve my dilemma of whether to shoot photos or video, right?  Should be interesting.

While experimenting with that, I’ll be charging all sorts of batteries.  I’m promised an air-conditioned tent, a seat at a table, and my own power strip at NASA’s press site, but it can’t hurt to be prepared.

In that vein, my backpack is packed to the hilt.  I have with me:

Two DSLR camera bodies, a Canon 5D mark II and a Canon Rebel XT
Three zoom lenses, one wide angle, one 2x extender
One external flash
Two regular tripods, one tripod “plate” attachment
Two Gorillapods, one UltraPod
A Zoom H2 digital audio recorder
Two video cameras, a Canon HFS10 and a helmet-mounted Contour HD
My iPhone (of course)
Three external Western Digital Passport hard drives
Many SD and Compact Flash cards
and my Dell XPS 1330 laptop

(I was this close to bringing my new powerhouse Sony laptop along, too, but FedEx didn’t quite come through for me.  Oksana will have to pick that up tomorrow and I won’t get to set it up until I get home next week.)

Plus, if I have time on Wednesday, and if I can find an Apple store near the airport in Orlando, I might just pick up a new iPad, too.  Just before leaving, Oksana and I decided to get one.  I could pick it up after the launch, but who knows?  Maybe I’ll find a use for it at Cape Canaveral!

Thursday is when the fun begins.  Here’s the schedule they provided me:

8-9 a.m. — Registration at the Kennedy Space Center Press Accreditation Badging Building
9-10 a.m. — Travel to the press site, set up, meet fellow participants
10 a.m. — Welcome and introductions by @NASA team members John Yembrick and Stephanie Schierholz
10:10 a.m. — Robert D. Braun, NASA chief technologist, NASA Headquarters
10:30 a.m. Jon Cowart (@Rocky_Sci), Orbiter Engineering manager, Space Shuttle Program, Kennedy Space Center
10:50 a.m. — Stephanie Stilson, space shuttle Discovery processing director, Shuttle Processing Office, Kennedy Space Center
11:10 a.m. — Astronaut Janice Voss
11:30 p.m.-12:15 p.m. — Break for lunch
12:30 p.m.-1:15 p.m. — Demonstration of the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES)
1:20 p.m. — Instructions for launch day, board buses
1:30-6:30 p.m. — Tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, including visits to the International Space Station Center and Apollo Saturn V Center. Your tour will drive by the Orbiter Processing Facility, Vehicle Assembly Building, Mobile Launcher Platforms and Crawler-Transporter. The last stop on the tour will be Launch Pad 39A to view retraction of the Rotating Service Structure, scheduled for 5:20 p.m. and space shuttle Atlantis. We will have a short break at the press site at about 4:30 p.m. If you need to leave, you may do so at that time.

And then on Friday:

9:30 a.m. — Arrive at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 Press Site.
10 a.m. — Group picture beside the countdown clock.
10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. — Free time and visits from guest speakers, including
– Astronaut Dave Wolf
– Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett, weather officer with the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron
– Chris Meinert, STS-132 Closeout Crew member
– Madi Sengupta (@msengupta), Space Station Robotics instructor at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
– Amiko Kauderer, @NASA_Johnson team member leading STS-132 mission Tweetup
2:20 p.m. — Launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-132 mission
~3:30 p.m. — Post-launch news conference on NASA TV

Following the launch, you are free to depart on your own schedule. If you leave immediately, be prepared to sit in traffic for quite some time.

(In the event of a 24-hour delay, we will repeat the launch day schedule, but everything will begin 30 minutes earlier)

I’m planning for long days, since I have an hour-long commute to and from my hotel.

It should go without saying that I’ll probably be posting quite a bit on Twitter during this trip; I mean that’s the whole point of allowing us access to the press site, right?  If you’d like to follow along, you can read my updates here:  I, and the 150 or so other attendees, will be using the hashtag “#nasaTweetup” if you want to pay attention to the wider conversation.  I would not be surprised if I were to post a few photos and videos on my Facebook account, too.

NASA has its own Twitter accounts, of course.  You can follow @nasatweetup or even just @NASA.

In addition, there should be plenty of professional NASA coverage of the event as well.  The information they sent me included the following:

NASA will use UStream to broadcast the portion of the NASA Tweetup at (May 13, 10am-11:30am — I’ll try to tweet about it a few minutes before it begins.)

Portions of the NASA Tweetup may be broadcast on NASA Television and online at  (I’m disappointed that we can no longer pick up the NASA TV satellite feed in Juneau, otherwise UATV would probably be rebroadcasting this.  I guess NASA switched off their west-coast satellite uplink a little while ago and the remaining feed is just a couple degrees below our horizon…)

Photos will be posted online during and/or after the event at

Three other links that might be handy:

Regular launch updates:
Schedule of milestones to launch:
Media briefing and event schedule:

Provided the Shuttle launch isn’t scrubbed, I expect to have one hell of a great time on this trip!  I’ll shoot as much video as I can, take some great pictures, and post what I can throughout the next two days.  I’ll use the following weekend to decompress, reflect, as well as organize all that media to see what I have.  I hope to be working on a new Postcard Valet podcast episode on my Sunday flight back to Juneau.

And, once I get home, if the migration to the new laptop goes smoothly, I may just post it ahead of our “first Monday of the month schedule.”  If not, come back on June 7th and I’ll show you something pretty awesome.