Will the next NASA shuttle launch Tweetup be overshadowed by amateur pic again?

NASA Endeavor shuttle Tweetup dwarfed by publicity for dramatic amateur TwitPic photo

NASA is promising 150 of its Twitter followers a “front-row seat” at the historic final launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis at a Tweetup to be held in Florida on July 8. The Tweetups are regular events showcasing NASA's missions to random groups of its Twitter followers, who then share news of the agency's work.

However, the best view might actually be for the passengers on any commercial airliners that happen to be passing by at the time of the launch, as a Twitter user discovered at the most recent shuttle launch.

Amateur photographer Stefanie Gordon (@stefmara on Twitter) became an international Web sensation on May 16 when she posted on her Twitter account dramatic photographs and a video of the Space Shuttle Endeavor launch she took while flying at high altitude on a commercial airliner.

Her photographs posted on TwitPic attracted hundreds of thousands of views and appeared in the pages of many newspapers around the world.

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“Woman’s plane photos of space shuttle go viral,” reported the Associated Press.

“Space Shuttle Endeavor Amateur Photo is a big hit on Twitter,” read a headline in The Mirror in the United Kingdom.

So even while NASA prepares for one of its premiere communications opportunities to engage the public in its space mission, there is a chance that its efforts could be overshadowed by a lucky amateur.

As one blogger noted of the May 16 Endeavor launch, which also included a NASA Tweetup: “NASA may have hosted a massive tweet-up at Kennedy Space Center today for the final launch of the Endeavor Space Shuttle, but, as we’ve seen before, the real magic is in the skies as passengers on nearby airliners snap photos of the launch,” stated a May 17 blog posting from the Travel Hotel Blog.

NASA’s Tweetup for the Space Shuttle Atlantis, currently scheduled for the Kennedy Space Center, allows a group of NASA’s Twitter followers who regularly interact on the social media network to meet in person to experience a bird’s-eye view of the launch in the space center. The Tweetup schedule also includes a tour of the space center and discussion with NASA managers, astronauts, shuttle technicians and engineers.

Many of the participants in past NASA Tweetups have posted photographs, videos and blogs about the experience.

'They are the type who will share their experiences. We don't have to tell them to tweet, blog, etc. It's part of their nature," Stephanie Schierholz, social media manager for NASA, wrote in an e-mailed comment to Federal Computer Week.

NASA was aware of the amateur Twitpic from the Endeavor launch and even retweeted that photo, Schierholz added. She said she had no worries about publicity from lucky amateurs outshining the NASA official events.  

"We don't have any concerns about things like that . We are big fans of anything that gets people talking about a great shuttle launch NASA just had. And the photo certainly didn't overshadow the event itself," Schierholz wrote in the e-mail.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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