So, did you follow along?
A scrubbed launch, rocket scientists, private tours and social media were some of the components of my out-of-this-world experience with NASA for their launch of the OCO-2 last week at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB). The OCO-2 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2) is NASA’s first space launch dedicated to studying carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Integrate was chosen as one of 70 credentialed social media experts (out of more than 500 applicants and the only Houston representative!) to cover the launch for NASA. Over the recent years and on trend with other larger companies and corporations, NASA has begun to include social media, alongside traditional media outlets, in their space launches through #NASAsocial programs. We (the #NASAsocial team) were chosen to attend the event because of the reach of our respective social media platforms and we were asked to share the experience in each of our unique voices to our audiences. My group of peers for the OCO-2 was well represented and well balanced: space experts, teachers, students, environmentalists, photographers, other social media experts and more joined me on the adventure. (The excitement of the launch and social media was not limited to just VAFB, local Houston news station, the CW, wanted more of the details, too!)
My role as a social media representative was to document the launch and everything that goes with it in real-time through the Integrate social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, an IPRocksNASA Tumblr created specifically for the event and here, our blog! The experience included a press conference with the OCO-2 team that was also broadcasted live on NASA TV and Ustream. Our speakers included NASA’s social media manager, program scientists for OCO-2, launch decision authority, project manager, project architect and more. They answered our questions- ranging from social media to data from OCO-2 to the actual launch and everything in between. We then headed off on a behind-the-scenes tour of Vandenberg Air Force Base, which included stops at a couple Space Launch Complexes (launch sites), Vandenberg Heritage Center (on-site museum with artifacts from launches past) and a final stop and photo opp at the Space Launch Complex 2, the site of the OCO-2 launch pad.
The launch itself:
Why #2? The original OCO was launched in 2009 but the launch vehicle’s payload failed to separate from the observatory during launch, resulting in a failed mission. Talk about pressure for OCO-2! The OCO-2 launch (on a Delta II rocket) had a :30 second window in which it could launch to join the designated orbit, A-Train. On the scheduled date/time of launch, 2:56 PST on Tuesday, July 1, with T-:46 seconds to go, the timer was held. There was an issue with the water pressure, which provided sound suppression to protect the pad during liftoff, so the timer was held, the :30 second window passed and unfortunately the launch was “scrubbed” for the night. Although very disappointing, it is amazing to look back at our Twitter and the #NASAsocial Twitter feeds to see the different pre-launch updates and reactions to a scrubbed launch. Attempt 2 was the following morning at the same time and thanks to Integrate’s fearless leader, I was able to stay for what was a successful launch; the OCO-2 is currently orbiting the earth! (Favorite part from the launch? Hearing the countdown and status of the rocket/launch transmitted from Mission Control.)
Thanks to NASA for allowing us social media experts and space lovers to become part of your team for the OCO-2 launch in an once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is Mary Paolantonio for #NASAsocial #OCO2 launch, signing off.