Dryden senior machinist Keith Day describes the functions of a vertical milling center in the center's experimental fabrication shop to followers of NASA's social media accounts during the NASA Social at Dryden. (NASA/Tom Tschida) › View Larger Image
It's hard to stage an event for millions of your closest friends. For that reason, NASA Socials are designed to give participants a look behind-the-scenes at how the agency works to share with their followers and reach audiences that ordinarily would not have the same access.
For 38 attendees of the NASA Social at Dryden on Sept. 19-21, the sense of awe and wonder of the Space Shuttle Program was experienced first hand. Social media members had rare access to the landing of Endeavour atop its host 747 on Sept. 20 and the shuttle's departure for the final leg of its ferry flight Sept. 21 over key California landmarks before landing at the Los Angeles International Airport.
NASA Social participants experienced a three-day event as a result of a weather delay. NASA Social participants had the opportunity to learn about Dryden's historic role in the shuttle program. For example, the Approach and Landing Tests at Dryden with the shuttle prototype Enterprise in 1977 validated that the shuttle could land unpowered. All but one of the early shuttle landings were at Edwards Air Force Base and the shuttles returned from space to a California welcome 54 times during the operational shuttle program.
Dryden Director of Mission Support Gwen Young joined NASA Social media attendees in welcoming Endeavour to Dryden. (NASA/Jay Levine) › View Larger Image In addition, social media members saw some of the latest developments in aeronautics and technology and heard about elements of NASA's future in aeronautics and space exploration.
More than 2,300 social media representatives, who have accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, signed up for one of the limited number of slots at the Dryden event.
NASA social media lead John Yembrick, moderator of the event, said attendees were given a number of unique opportunities to learn about NASA.
"The level of enthusiasm of the participants shows the benefits of doing these events in person with on-line engagement. We have had 30 NASA Socials and they are all unique, but this was one of the finest we have hosted. They have a great communications team at Dryden. I am impressed with the work they have done to go above and beyond to work for this social media experience," Yembrick said.
NASA Socials have an important role.
"These events make NASA more accessible and communicates our story to a more general audience that perhaps has not heard it before," he added.
Social media representatives came from all over the United States including Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Texas. The social media representatives' backgrounds included educators, social media strategists, videographers and numerous other vocations/avocations.
The social had meaning for Kaci Heins, a teacher from Flagstaff, Ariz.
"It (Endeavour) was the first shuttle I saw up close. It was very emotional and I teared up," she said.
Participants such as Andy Rechenberg appreciated the special access.
"I know a lot about NASA, but I didn't know how many aircraft and space projects flew here," said Rechenberg, who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio.
He was excited about learning more about NASA future space work, but the Endeavour landing rated high.
"I was speechless when we were able to tour the NASA 747 with Endeavour on top. It was off the charts to be inside the SCA. You couldn't ask for more. Almost everything I see when I come to NASA Socials is hard to put into words. The NASA Social Media team outdid themselves. Expectations started high and stayed there," Rechenberg said.
Lisa Mattox, Dryden social media lead, said the weather delay afforded participants additional opportunities.
"It was an enthusiastic group. When the Social Media event was extended to three days, attendees were happy that they had an extra 'bonus' day to learn about Dryden. It is important to present these opportunities to social media members to get NASA's messages out to a wide range of people. There are some participants with as many as 43,000 followers and there is a multiplier factor for people who receive the messages and send them to their followers," she said.
"We also had an opportunity to show participants what's next for NASA. Yes, it is sad the shuttle program is coming to an end, but NASA still is in the business of space and aeronautics research," Mattox added.
Cindy Chin, a management consultant from New York City, said she was happy to be a part of history.
"The space shuttle means so much to everyone. Its appeal reaches across generations and excites our inner astronaut," she said.
Closer to home, Cariann Higginbatham of Anaheim, Calif., said she likes seeing behind the curtains at NASA.
"We were shown the backstage and how NASA works. It was special because we saw what other people don't see. NASA is not faceless. We were able to see the other side of NASA - its people," she said.
While participants were sad to see the final flights of NASA's Space Shuttle Program, they learned the agency's future is as bright as ever.