On Monday, July 12, I got to attend my first NASA Social, #Apollo45. It was a special event, celebrating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11. The Operations and Checkouts building at Kennedy Space Center was also being renamed that day to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkouts building, and a special renaming ceremony was being hosted.
I arrived on center that morning and drove to the press site, across from the iconic VAB. The press site, sadly, did not seem to be bustling like it used to before a launch or special event. I met with the other NASA Social attendees, many of them having attended at least one social or tweetup before this. I met a few familiar faces that I had previously only known through twitter, which was really fantastic! We introduced ourselves and then hopped on a bus and rode to the O&C for the ceremony.
We walked into the O&C, which has gotten a nice facelift in recent years! We came inside to see rockets and historical space objects, like Neil Armstrong’s moonsuit. We had the chance to sign a sign commemorating the event, alongside signatures of Neil’s family, Buzz Aldrin, and other space celebs.
Then we entered the Orion high bay, where the ceremony was being held. It was already very full, but to my surprise, we were escorted to the front, across from the stage, with the professional media. Even more to my surprise, a few of us (myself included), were allowed to actually stand on a side stage to ourselves during the ceremony! (It was one of the best views in the place).
NASA Deputy Director Charlie Bolden and KSC Center Director Bob Cabana, both former astronauts, started the ceremony. Then astronauts on board the ISS tuned in via video in realtime and had a Q&A/speaking time. Then, Neil’s two sons, Mark and Rick, spoke about their father. Following the Armstrongs, former astronaut Jim Lovell, backup commander for Apollo 11 and commander of Apollo 13, spoke about Neil and their adventures back in the day. Next, Neil’s Apollo 11 crew spoke. Second man on the moon, science advocate, and celebrity Buzz Aldrin, spoke about Neil. Mike Collins, an unsung and often forgotten member of the Apollo 11 flight, spoke. (Mike flew the capsule and did not get to go to the moon; rather, he orbited by himself while Neil and Buzz were on the lunar surface).
After the speaking ended, the event moved into a side room for cake and socializing, and the NASA Social attendees and I went off to lunch.
After lunch, we had an awesome tour of the VAB. We went to a couple of different floors and saw platforms for both the space shuttle and the Saturn V. It was pretty neat! Overall, my first NASA Social was an awesome experience and I hope to do it again.