Twitter users get rare tour of NASA Ames


February 11, 2011 6:48:55 PM PST
It is not easy to pass through the gates of NASA Ames in Mountain View. Armed guards stop cars, ask for passes and double-check identifications. Friday, however, with an invitation and a Twitter account, a select few did get through and received the VIP treatment.

Ever hear of a tweetup? No? Well, now you have. A few weeks ago, NASA posted an invitation to followers on its Twitter site (@NASA_Ames), and then chose 100 of them at random for Friday's tour, which included lunch.

"I just tweeted that at NASA they call helicopters Rotocraft. I thought that was really funny, so I tweeted that," Ed Statsny (@Starstew) said.

"Twitter reaches a lot of people," NASA's David Morrison said. "If those people are interested in NASA, Twitter is a great way to talk to them, assuming you can do so in 20 words or roughly 140 characters."

Of Friday's visitors, Don Breedwell (@MrDDon) may have traveled the farthest.

"NASA was on my bucket list," the special education teacher from Nashville, Tennessee, who tweeted back to his students, said. "I'm tweeting all the things we're trying to do for the future."

Those 'things' include the Kepler Mission, a space-based telescope that is searching a small section of our galaxy for earthlike planets.

"Out of these four and a half million stars, we chose the 156,000 that would return the most science yield," Natalie Batalha, who helps manage the program, said.

Kepler looks for small changes in the brightness of stars as planets pass in front of them. Batalha went considerably deeper in explaining the science for Friday's crowd.

"It would be nice to take humanity along on this journey. I think they deserve it," she said.

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