I’ve been a space nut, a NASA nerd, for a long time. Long as I can remember. I have been an adult for far less. Both of these are related. We’ll come full circle here, just give me a minute.
When I was a kid, my folks got me a pop up book that would open up into three dimensional moments from all of NASA history. The Mercury and Gemini missions, Apollo 11 and the race to the Moon, Skylab and later the Shuttle – all came to life and made me wonder what was up there.
In high school I discovered science fiction. Star Trek TNG and a healthy dose of good (and terrible) paperbacks kept me looking up.
And then there was college and then there was a career and my attention wandered. I’d check back in every few years, of course. I followed the construction of the International Space Station and spent a good month or so obsessed with Spirit and Opportunity, the scrappy tag team of Mars rovers.
But I was only sort of politely paying attention, not wonderfully and nerdily obsessed with it all as I had been in the past.
Then along came Twitter, and all of a sudden it was possible to nerdily obsess in a much more passive way – all in 140 character tidbits conveniently delivered to my digital doorstep. I followed a bunch of NASA accounts: @NASA, @NASA_Dawn, @MarsCuriosity, @AsterioidWatch.
A few weeks ago, I read a tweet from @MarsCuriosity that applications were being accepted for the next NASA Tweetup. I had heard of NASA doing this kind of thing before, most recently (and interestingly) from the perspective of Matt Mira from the Nerdist Podcast. Tweetups are when NASA gives regular schmucks like me all-access passes to their facilities, behind-the-scenes tours, and front row seats to whatever they’re doing. The current one is to watch the launch of the Mars Curiosity rover.
I felt the kind of excitement only a nerd can feel. I applied.
This evening I found out I was accepted.
I’ll admit it, I swooned. I felt a little dizzy. I imagine it felt the same way an NFL fan might feel if their favorite team asked them to hang out on the sideline. I couldn’t believe my luck.
But then I realized one thing and remembered another.
- Realized: Check in for the tweetup is on November 23rd. The launch is on November 25th. This would require me to spend Thanksgiving away from my family, alone in Florida. (Incidentally, “Alone in Florida” would be a great title for…. something. Hop to it, people! Make me proud.) This is, obviously, less than ideal. Especially as I’m in a phase where family feels very important and not something to take for granted.
- Remembered: Oh, yeahhh….. I’m an adult. Perhaps I should act like one. I heard somewhere once that being an adult is willfully choosing to not do something you really want to. I think that’s true, especially when you consider that I’ve sort of already blown the Mike-Travels-Alone-for-Personal-Enrichment budget on a conference I’m going to next week. Yes, we should live in a world where my employer reimburses its employees for work-related conferences, but sadly we do not. So I’m already spending a ton of money to shlep myself up to Buffalo for four days; adding another four in Florida just to fulfill a childhood fantasy isn’t, well, the adult thing to do.
So, sorry, NASA. I choose to not watch your rocket launch and do these other things, not because it is easy but because it is hard (*bam!* Kennedy NASA speech reference. See, told you I was a huge space nerd…)
Anyway, point is, I want to go but I choose not to. Because it wouldn’t be right.
But I’m still totally going to follow along on the internet. While wearing my NASA t-shirt.