Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What Should You Expect from a NASA Social?'ve been selected for your first NASA Social event. Congratulations! Are you excited? Is your inner (or outer, depending on your personality) 'space nerd' jumping for joy? You're soon to take part in something that, traditionally, members of the general public have not been able to witness from such a privileged vantage point. Maybe it's an engine test...or a planetary encounter...or a 'crown jewel' of Socials - a launch! Whatever the occasion, you're sure to be both impressed, and overwhelmed, during the event. 

Through the graciousness of NASA and their Social Media team - both at NASA HQ and at Marshall Space Flight Center, I've been lucky enough to have been selected for several Social events, among which were: the unveiling of the 'Welding Wonder', the world's largest rocket-building tool that will help build America's next great launcher - the Space Launch System (SLS) witness the awesome fury of the firing of the upgraded solid-fuel booster at the QM-1 Social, which will help power SLS to orbit...and the incredible sight and sound of a full-duration test of the RS-25 engine, four of which will continue to power SLS to space as part of SLS's core stage. Hopefully my experience can help you maximize your enjoyment of this special event.

What Should I Bring?

Don't let this happen to you...
Everything! Or nothing! Well, not 'nothing'. Considering that it *is* a social-media based event, I would suggest you bring whichever portable tools are necessary in order for you to chronicle your experience and share it with your followers. Some Socials include tours of restricted-access areas where photography is prohibited...and there are even some where no electronic devices (not even key fobs) are allowed. Unless you have a photographic memory, it may be worthwhile to bring along a notebook and pen/pencil for taking notes. Trust me.

Also, unless you have some super-special devices, you're likely to be looking for a power outlet to top-up the charge on your various and sundry gadgets about halfway through the day...if not sooner. You'd be well-advised to bring along a portable charging device (no RTGs, please) as outlets are habitually in short-supply. I've seen many 'Socialeers' use, and swear by, the portable charging systems. If you have one, bring it. Since I often tote around my laptop, I use its battery to provide a charge to my phone(s) and camera(s).

What Should I Wear?

Clothes, please. were looking for something a bit more helpful than that? Fine. Often, NASA will give a basic outline about clothing requirements - no shorts or dresses, no open-toed shoes or flip-flops, etc. Even though an event may be occurring in coastal Mississippi during the dead of summer, if NASA says 'no shorts', they mean it. Really.

I generally wear a hat - not just to cover my thinning hair...but I like hats - and have generally had no problem with that. I recall there being one high-security place that disallowed head coverings, so I had to leave it on the bus...but that's a rare occurrence.

With NASA having a myriad of locations across the country, and with weather being somewhat unpredictable at times, it may make sense to layer clothing and/or bring a light jacket...or something heavier as necessary. Oh - definitely wear comfortable'll be walking. A lot.

Since many of the events have an outdoor component, things like sunglasses, bug repellant, water, or even light snacks might be worthwhile to consider. No one knows you better than you do - so bring what you think you may need.

Who Will Be There?
Is that NASA Administrator Bolden? Yes...yes, it is.
One of the coolest things about a NASA Social, other than the subject of the social itself, is the broad variety of people attending the event with you. I've met so many people: an engineer from Bigelow Aerospace, a Twitter employee, a fashion designer, and a WWE Diva just to name a few. Add the prospect of meeting astronauts, NASA engineers, research scientists, and maybe even NASA's Administrator - Charles Bolden, and I believe it's possible that you might have almost as good a time learning about your fellow attendees and speakers as you will seeing all the cool NASA stuff at the Social.

I've made many friends and acquaintances at the Socials...some of whom I've come to call very close friends. While your "mileage" may vary, rest assured you'll be in the company of people with an interest and passion for NASA and its various missions/directives. Make the most of it. Really, if a diehard introvert like me can do it, so can you.

What Else?
I cannot over-stress simply taking the opportunity to sit and watch what's going on...especially if this is your first event. I still have to remind myself of that occasionally. For instance, at the QM-1 booster Social in Utah, I was so busy taking pictures and videos of the two-minute test that I actually don't remember it as vividly as I should. Sure, I snapped some cool pictures and impressive video, but I do regret not taking the opportunity to simply watch the spectacle happening before me. Don't make the mistake of not fully appreciating the moment - you'll have plenty of time to tweet, text, blog, etc., later.

Did I miss something? If there's anything else you'd like to know, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading, and congratulations on being selected!