Yesterday was completely awesome.
My alarm woke me up at 5:30AM for the MSL Curiosity launch and from then until 11AM, it was surround-sound, brain-engaged, full-on NASA Tweetup. We listened to Will.i.am from the Black-Eyed Peas talk about challenging and encouraging kids to get involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).We were inspired by the energy and commitment of Bill Nye, The Science Guy. NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden stood in the midst of the 150 people at the tweetup and gave a short passionate speech about how the MSL launch is the next step on the road to human space flight to Mars. And JPL Visualization guru Doug Ellison gave a demo of Eyes on the Solar System, including the new 3-D mode, which is totally cool.
And, yes, launch*was* the most amazing experience and I’ll write about it when I can figure out how to put it into words. Today, though, the other moment that sticks with me is actually a continuation of a moment from a launch I wasn’t even at, the last Shuttle launch (STS-135 for the space geeks).
I had been following Doug on Twitter (@Astro_Wheels) because while he was aboard the International Space Station, he took some amazing photos of the Earth, and those photos are how I fell in love with all things space and most things NASA. But once I read the STS-135 story about that little kid, he became one of my heros (and I have exactly three now, so it’s a rarified club).
My friend has an autistic kid and I love anyone who takes the time to be with Liam on his terms, not on theirs. That’s exactly what Doug Wheelock did with that little kid at STS-135.
Yesterday, I actually got to meet Doug Wheelock, and he is as kind and generous in person as I imagined. And when he said he liked a pin I was wearing, I couldn’t take it off and give it to him fast enough. A little pin in exchange for what his works have given me? Such a deal!
So, while I have launch photos and lots of amazing memories from this week, this might be my favorite picture. I look like crap, but I so don’t care. I got to meet Doug Wheelock!