Dr. Waleed Abdalati was appointed NASA chief scientist on Jan. 3, 2011, serving as the principal adviser to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on NASA science programs, strategic planning, and the evaluation of related investments.
“How lucky am I?”
These were just a few of the cheerful exclamations broadcast through the Twitterverse during a talk by NASA Chief Scientist, Waleed Abdalati, at the Kennedy Space Center on April 28, 2011. The talk was part of an exclusive event designed for 150 lucky @NASA Twitter followers. Participants were selected randomly from more than 4,100 online registrants, and came from all over the world to witness the penultimate launch of the space shuttle program.
NASA Chief Scientist, Waleed Abdalati, addresses the STS-134 Tweetup crowd at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: Troy Janisch
Abdalati opened the event, or Tweetup, with a brief talk about science at NASA. He addressed the crowd inside the Tweetup tent, located near the launch press site about 3 miles from Launch Pad 39A - one of the closest launch viewing sites at the space center. The final launch of space shuttle Endeavor is “the culmination of years of national spirit, human spirit, sweat, blood & soul," remarked Abdalati. “It belongs to everyone.”
The Chief Scientist of the space agency continued by reminding the audience that the end of the shuttle program is also the start of something new, and that "The future is yours for the creating, not taking." One participant tweeted about Abdalati “on stage talking about the emotion and soul of space exploration,” and stated, “I'm in the right place.” Another fan remarked, “Amazing what we've accomplished.”
This was the fourth time NASA invited its Twitter followers to experience a space shuttle launch. Attendees represented 43 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Venezuela, and the U.K.
Participants were eager to ask questions, one of which was, "As a scientist, what are you working on that gets you up in the morning?" Abdalati said that everyday he’s blown away by something new. One “twitterian” summed it up in a few short words, “Sounds like a good job description.”
The launch, originally scheduled for the afternoon of April 29, was scrubbed after engineers detected a failure in one of two heater circuits associated with Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) 1. Endeavour’s external tank was drained, allowing technicians to enter Endeavour’s aft compartment and gain access to the avionics bay and Load Control Assembly. Over the next two weeks, Kennedy technicians installed and checked out new wiring and ran tests to verify that all systems were working properly.
NASA Twitter followers, who participated in the STS-134 Tweetup are seen together by the launch clock, Friday, April 29, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Photo Credit: (NASA/Paul E. Alers)
NASA managers retargeted space shuttle Endeavour's launch to no earlier than Monday, May 16, and also extended the length of its STS-134 mission, carrying a crew of six astronauts to the International Space Station, from 14 to 16 days.
On its final flight, space shuttle Endeavour lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 16 right on time at 8:56 a.m. EDT, soaring through a few clouds, after a relatively smooth countdown.
Nearly 80 of the 150 original Tweetup participants returned to Kennedy for the second launch attempt, according to a May 17 Florida Today news article.
Sarah DeWitt, Office of the Chief Scientist