Monday, August 24, 2009

A Childhood Interest Becoming Adult Obsession

Twitter changes things. It seems mind-blowing that little messages like that can open up worlds of opportunity to learn, grow, and even meet people who become real-life friends. You can target your interests or just click around and see what catches your eye, serendipitous follows.

Most of us are interested in a lot of things as children (at least I hope that's true of most people), and of course, the question of, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" usually gets a different answer depending on the year, month, day, or even moment it gets asked by some well-meaning adult. If you caught me at the right time in my childhood you would have heard that I either wanted to be an astronaut or, really, any position at NASA would do. I would have also been happy to be an astrophysicist at any form of observatory. As long as it involved things out of this world, I suppose, it fit into my hopes and dreams.

In the intervening years that dream fell away completely. I even thought I had grown to hate science for a time. It's easy to look back and realize that I hFont sizead the misfortune of encountering really bad science teachers (one of my chem teachers didn't even know Avogadro's number. He said it was around 6x1023 but, when pressed, had no idea of what came after the decimal point. Still makes me want to cry in frustration). In every other way I had a phenomenal education but everything I learned about science came from reading and visiting the American Museum of Natural History. I'm sure being female didn't help, either, but no one cared about the sexism of science classrooms in those days.

Thank goodness (and T.R.) for the museum. As an adult, I have attended many a lecture there and, despite having only a G.E.D. have managed to cobble together quite a bit of knowledge between the amazing speakers and books they led me to. My childhood dreams started coming back to me, but this time in a mature way where the dream includes hard work, several degrees, and paying my dues even if I'm 50 or more when I get to break into it. Who needs to retire, anyway?

Then I found NASA TV. Ahh, the wonder of seeing Hubble images, day-to-day moments of life in the ISS, and whatever random stuff they decided to broadcast. The trouble is, it's hard to know when what you want to see is on as opposed to the educational programming reminiscent of early public broadcast shows.

So, how does Twitter come into all of this? Well, I joined purely to get in touch with an old friend and because another friend kept hounding me to. It took me about 3 hours to find @NASA and that was the moment I got hooked. Now I'm following a whole bunch of NASA workers and get up-to-the-moment updates and insights on what's happening with the whole space program and particularly the shuttle missions. I also know just when to turn on NASA TV now, very handy. Better yet, actual astronauts have answered my questions!

So, there you have it folks. I am a bigger geek than I usually let on, and it's not just in the fun used-to-be-a-sound-engineer way. Now you know.

Tonight I sit here, anxiously clicking refresh on my Twitter home page for any scrap of information about Discovery and aching to make my boyfriend turn off the NFL channel in favor of NASA, even plotting with my father about how to get our butts to a launch before the shuttle program ends.

I would like to send out enormous thanks to everyone at NASA who has gotten this girl hooked, especially @astro_mike, @astro_127, @astro_jose (on his first space flight tonight!), @absolutespacegrl, and @MarkKirkman. You (and a few others that got lost in my excitement) are providing a wonderful service to all of us who believe in the space program but can only press our noses to the glass. Not to mention all the hearty laughs you've all provided!

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