The day the tweetup came to town!!!!

The ESA (European Space Agency) has scheduled a tweetup for 18th September in Cologne, Germany. It has been arranged as part of German Aerospace Day, which is a bi-annual event where DLR and its partners showcase their research in the areas of aerospace and spaceflight, energy and transport. It is held in the Cologne/Porz establishment shared by DLR, ESA’s European Astronaut Centre, Cologne Bonn Airport and the German Air Force. In the previous event in 2009, more than 100,000 people attended the event.

2009 German Aerospace day
2009 German Aerospace day

To those uninitiated to the ways of social media, the obvious question is:

What is a Tweetup?

A Tweetup is an informal, educational gathering of people who use the social messaging medium Twitter. NASA has held them for some of their later shuttle missions, and have also recently arranged ones for the Juno launch to Jupiter and the next mission to the Moon (GRAIL mission). It allows attendees to discuss aspects of the ACTUAL mission with the scientists, engineers, administrators and astronauts involved in the missions themselves in an informal atmosphere.The first joint DLR/ESA Space Tweetup will be an opportunity to learn more about the two agencies and their activities.

60 lucky participants were to be selected after registering their details at the DLR/ESA web site. The only real criteria were that they were able to travel to Cologne for the event and that they followed an ESA account on twitter. I looked at the scheduled itinerary, and it looked very interesting indeed. ESA astronauts would be there, as would representatives from the SOFIA telescope. A tour of an A300 Zero-G used by DLR and ESA for parabolic flight campaigns was to be organised, a Q&A with DLR/ESA scientists and project managers as well as tours of DLR research institutes and facilities.

I registered my details with no real expectation of being selected. While interested in space since a small child, I thought the chances of being picked would be very slim.

After the closing date, which was the 5th August (coincidentally the same day as the launch of NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter and the scheduled launch date for an Ariane 5 rocket), all attendees received an email thanking them for registering and informing them that emails for those selected should start going out a week later.

During the week between close of registration and selection emails, a Facebook group was created and was active with people introducing themselves, stating what their interests were and generally posting articles of interest to the group. By the 10th August its membership had grown to around 90. Messages starting to bounce around the group wishing everyone good luck for the imminent selection.

An announcement from @ChrisAstro early Thursday morning signalled that the process of sending the emails had begun. A sense of eager anticipation gripped the group. More good lucks were quickly exchanged around the group. As the morning wore on, “SUCCESS” emails were received and the news broadcast on facebook and twitter by the excited recipients. Electronic hugging could be heard across the group.

Nothing for me.

A hour passed.

The number of “SUCCESS” emails grew. Much congratulating could be witnessed. It was a good thing people had been selected, and I joined in with well meant and sincere congratulations. It had genuinely been a pleasure in the last week to register for the event and to cultivate some new friendships on social media sites.

Another hour passed. How long can it take to send 60 emails? Working in IT, as I do, I suspected I had a pretty good idea, and as the morning wore on my frantic stares at my phone looking for “NEW MAIL” notifications grew slightly less frantic.

There would be other gatherings. Plenty of other oppoprtunities to meet people with similar interests. I was happy for the people that had been selected.

Then, an email arrived in my INBOX.

Tweetup Email
Tweetup Email

I started at the screen for a few minutes.

Should I open the email?
What if it said I hadn’t been picked?
Did I even want to go? The answer to that question was easy: A resounding YES!!

My finger wandered towards the screen to read the now infamous email. I pressed the screen (I was reading the email on my Android phone):
I quickly scanned the email, looking for any word that might indicate I had been selected. Nothing, jumped out at me. I scanned again? Still nothing.
“Calm down”, I said to myself. “Start at the beginning”.

So I did. This is what it said:

Tweetup confirmation
Tweetup confirmation email

I WAS IN!!!!! πŸ™‚

I tweeted and facebooked my success to the group and to my followers. I was happy. I received messages of congratulations and sent thanks in response. A number of commiserations were also sent. 418 had registered from 28 countries. Only 60 were to be selected. Inevitably, this would mean there would be some disappointed people. Not everyone in our Facebook group received good news. Not everyone received ANY news that day. 42 of the 60 “SUCCESS” emails were sent that day. The remainder were sent the following day.

I can safely say, for me, the rest of the afternoon passed in somewhat of a haze. It was going to be an exciting event, and the journey had only just begun.

For previous Tweetup posts, click HERE

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