|Posted on Aug 11, 2010 09:58:45 AM | Heather Smith | 0 Comments ||
Some day I hope I get to talk to an astronaut in space. I’ve talked to quite a few on Earth, but to talk to one while he or she is in space would be awesome, don’t you think? My most recent astronaut interview, though, actually took me farther way from my goal than closer. My last astronaut interview was with Chris Hadfield while he was 62 feet below the surface on a NASA undersea mission.
I interviewed Hadfield during NEEMO 14, an underwater mission to the Aquarius habitat. NEEMO is the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project, which basically sends groups of NASA employees and contractors to live in an underwater habitat for weeks at a time. Crews do this as an analog to space exploration, experiencing some of the same tasks and challenges underwater as they would in space.
On the call, I was most interested in asking Commander Hadfield about the team’s use of social media and how that was impacting the mission. The team had an impressive social media lineup including @NASA_NEEMO and @ReefBase on Twitter, a NASA NEEMO Facebook page, the NASA Analogs Blog, the NASA Analogs Flickr page, and NASAanalogTV on YouTube. Hadfield said he was skeptical going into it but all the tweeting and blogging ended up with quite the positive impact."When we were preparing for NEEMO 14, our crew here, they asked us take advantage of the fact that there are other ways, through the Internet, to communicate, that you can report real time through tweets or Facebook or blogs your thoughts and your transient emotions and your real-time experiences. Which of course if you’re on a trip with people that’s the most interesting part, is how do you feel now, what’s going on now, how’s life flowing around you. Well, suddenly it’s not just a dry after-the-fact report, but it can be a real-time voyage of what is happening. And as a person who’s grown up with more traditional media, to me that’s a foreign idea, and I’m suspicious of it because I don’t know how it’s going to work, I don’t have any experience with it, and I know it’s going to increase my crew’s workload to do it.
So let me say, I’ve been delighted with what it has done both for the ability for us to interact with people all around the world but also what it did for the crew. It has allowed us as a group to constantly, almost be forced to, express out loud what it is we’re thinking about and what it is we’re feeling and what’s special to us and what is remarkable to us. And you really shouldn’t hoard something that is important to you or something that is magnificent to you. And so by forcing people to (say) “Hey, I just saw something really cool,” well, shoot, tweet it, put it out there. And people have been twittering and tweeting and our lead hab tech here, he was dancing and celebrating when he sent his very first tweet, which sounds silly but now he is sending them every time he has a thought about something that’s really important to him. And we have … gone from a few to a few dozen to a few hundred to in the thousands of people that are directly following what we’re doing down here, purely as a result of using a new technology to help spread the human experience.
And it also, I think, allows us to more clearly articulate it to ourselves and to each other. So I really enjoyed it, and I’m a big proponent of it now as a crew to have that capability. So as Andrew (Abercromby, a NASA engineer on the mission) is there talking to the two crew members outside, he’s regularly posting information that they’re coming across.
We invited people all around the world to help us name parts of the reef. As we’re out there exploring unknown parts of the reef, we come around a corner and we need to give something a name so we can use it as a navigation point, and we have schools and organizations and individuals from all around the world giving us names that we immediately use and apply to these locations. When I play guitar … we have people offering suggestions of what to play. Of course, not everyone is interested in everything, but for the people that are interested in exploration and in diving and in new understanding of some of the real hostile and extreme environments around the world, this is a fascinating way to include them, and we’ve been speaking to a lot of schools that way too.
We know there are whole classrooms that are following along just as a result of the new social media that we’re using. So I’ve been really pleased with it, and I think if we just look at the way that we’re tracking it to see how many people are actually tied in, I think it’s a really worthwhile thing to do."
A very awesome answer, I thought, to know that social media tools like Twitter and Facebook and blogs are not only working as outreach tools but helping to build crew morale by connecting them with the outside world. That could be pretty important to know for six-month stays on the International Space Station or even longer voyages to other places in space.
NASA is really diving into the use of social media tools with a variety of blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages for the agency’s many missions and projects. Here’s a listing of all the different ways you can keep up with NASA’s blogs, tweets, flickrs and more, and if you’re not a member already, join the NASA Students group on Facebook for information about NASA student opportunities like internships and co-ops. Maybe you’ll land a NASA co-op position like astronaut Karen Nyberg who went on to become an astronaut and participated in 2006 in NEEMO 10. (Read more about Nyberg’s pre-astronaut days and co-op experiences in this feature article I wrote about her as she was preparing for the STS-124 space shuttle mission in 2008.)
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