Over the past few years, a lot of people have been asking me how I got interested in space and why I started reporting about space events on social media. Well, this is the story about how it all started:
A few years ago, I was in graduate school in the United States and I was batshit bored. Seriously. To cure the epic boredom that I was experiencing, I would scourer the internet for interesting things. I really needed something to give me inspiration. Then, one night I stumbled upon NASA’s social media webpage. This is where I found their NASASocial program. NASASocial is a program for social media influencers from around the world to go behind the scenes and learn all about cool stuff NASA is doing. The social event that I chose to apply for was the SpaceX CRS-5 resupply mission going to the International Space Station (ISS)!
After I submitted my application, a few weeks went by. I didn’t hear anything. I actually wasn’t really sure if they contacted you if you were successful or not. Then, one night right after midnight, I was checking my email one last time and I heard a ding. I got an email from NASA. I slowly opened the email not knowing the contents. That’s when I couldn’t believe it. Myself along with 49 social media influencers would be attending a rocket launch. I was so excited; this was my very first launch. My sleep that night suffered but it didn’t matter. I was going to see a rocket launch!
Two weeks later, I drove down to Florida and arrived at the NASA press center. This is where NASA issued me with an official badge! OMG – I was NASA OFFICIAL! From there, I met a really creative and a crazy bunch of social media influencers that instantly became my social media space besties; they were from all different walks of life! We’re talking Hollywood fashion designers, teachers, authors, social media guru’s and students – you name it – diversity was evident in our group and we were all here for one thing – we wanted to see a rocket launch.
NASA’s social media team took us for an incredible intimate tour that’s not open to the general public. We frantically typed away on our phones and laptops using our preferred method of social media platform using the hashtag #NASASocial telling anyone who was interested what we were experiencing, LIVE!
We got to walk on ACTUAL launch pads and meet the ACTUAL people at NASA who were working on on the rocket launch we are about to see! This was just so cool! Our launch was a resupply mission to the ISS as NASA does not launch humans from the USA to space right now (they launch, thanks to the Russians, from Baikonur which is in Southern Kazakhstan).
Minutes after hearing our first informative session of the experiments going to the ISS, we found out that our launch was scrubbed. A scrub means that the launch is canceled. There was disappointment across the board, but hey… this is rocket science right?
Luckily, not all was lost. NASA continued the program and we were still able to meet everyone else involved with the launch. We learnt more about the different research projects that were going to the ISS and we also got a tour of Vehicular Assembly Building (VAB) ROOF! Seriously! I mean, how many people get to stand on the top of the world’s largest freestanding building with 360 degree views of NASA’s launchpads? And, to top it all off, the building we were standing on is where space history was actually made! This is where the Saturn V and the Space Shuttles were assembled. We also met former astronaut and total badass rocketstar and the head of NASA, Charlie Bolden, as well as a bunch of other NASA astronauts! This was just so cool. I was space-fangirling HARD!
Later that day, all of the 50 social media influencers went home only to find out that in two days, another launch attempt was to take place – again, some of us drove 11 hours to Florida while the others flew from one edge of the country to the other for this launch. Again, it scrubbed. Bummer….
This time, NASA took us to the Orion capsule press event and we got to see the Orion capsule up-close. There’s a lot of cool stuff regarding the Orion capsule but my favourite story is how this capsule arrived to Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Orion went on a test launch and landed in the Pacific. Then, Orion was secretly driven across the United States on the backroads in the cover of darkness. It had arrived only HOURS before the presser and here we were standing in front of it. We were in the right place at the right time. Orion was sitting in the hangar basking in all it’s glory!
A few weeks later, NASA announced that SpaceX CRS-5 was going to attempt ANOTHER launch. Third time’s the charm, right? I drove 11 hours, AGAIN, down to KSC and went to all the pressers, and met even MORE cool NASA people and staff involved with this launch. This time, our launch was scheduled at something like 2am. We arrived to the press center where NASA loaded us on their busses and drove us to causeway on the base. This is where NASA’s VIPS, rocket photographers and special guests stand to watch the launch. Basically, we’re standing at the safe distance of 3-5 miles from the actual launch pad.
I saw the rocket launch and my life changed forever.
I had what a lot of astronauts call an overview effect; they experience a cognitive shift in awareness when they see the Earth for the first time from space. Whilst my experience was on land, I think the concept of what I experienced was very similar. As the rocket lifted into the night sky, I realised how far humanity had come. That we were able to pull off incredible things when we all work together. That’s when I figured out that I wanted to be a part of all of this space stuff… I knew right then and there that I wanted to dedicate myself to helping the science, space and renewables industry any way I could!
When I watched the rocket lift into the sky, it bathed all of us in an orange glow. I could hear the unforgettable crackling sound of the rocket that you can only hear when you go to an actual launch. It was an incredible experience that I will never ever forget. I also realised at that moment that that scientists and engineers were my heroes.
This is why I now dedicate my time to report on space events around the world for NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and private companies. I have also started a business called LaunchPad Creative which is a communication startup that specialises in traditional, digital and social media communication for the science, space and renewables industry.
Since I have been working internationally in the television industry for over 20 years, it has given me an edge to help communicate with different cultures around the world. While working in Australia, my day job involved network TV branding, launching TV shows and creating campaigns. I am now going to do that with LaunchPad Creative. Next week, I will be attending the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide where I will be reporting via social media covering all the events just like I have done for both NASA, ESA and for other events around the world! You can follow all the action using the twitter handle @Taraustralis!
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!