"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Hangout with Astronauts on the ISS

Following that awesome trip to NASA Glenn Research Center last summer, I promised myself it would not be the only time I participated formally in space exploration activities, especially those of a social nature. So on Friday morning I cashed in a couple of hours of vacation and journeyed eastward to a coffee shop.

The View from Biggby Coffee

Yes, you read that correctly. I took a two hour vacation to my local coffee shop. On Friday, NASA held a hangout on Google+, that social networking site many votaries of Facebook and Twitter mistakenly assume is dead in the water. It is not. And like many major organizations, NASA has figured out how to harness Google+ for social networking with devotees like me.

During my two-hour vacation to a Wi-Fi hot spot, I checked into an official Google+ Hangout where astronauts fielded a variety of questions, some asked via live webcams from schools and homes, others prerecorded on YouTube or sent via the hash tag #askAstro. It was delightful to watch students step forward and ask excellent questions of our nation's space agency, and also of Canada's. Some participants logged in from other countries. While my connection was sometimes spotty (not sure if that was due to my setup or NASA's), the event was a great reminder that as a space enthusiast I am part of a vibrant community. Thousands participated in this first hangout with the International Space Station.

The highlight was watching astronauts on the ISS field questions live from us folks on the ground. This is science as a communal and celebratory experience. I highly recommend watching the below recording of the hangout. What you won't see are the live participants. However, during the hangout their video images were integrated into the presentation. Lastly, if you are interested in participating in similar events in the future, make sure to periodically visit NASA's Connect page and pay special attention to NASA Social.

From the NASA Television Channel on YouTube:
"Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford of NASA, Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA and Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency fielded questions from social media during a Google Plus hangout February 22, the first for the station."

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