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NASA talks Twitter, flight simulators, and deep space

NASA officials are marking the the fourth anniversary of the administration’s first Tweetup, held at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, on January 21, 2009.

The space agency, which has taken an increasing interest in connecting with fans via social media, mark the anniversary by discussing the popularity of the events of the past four years.

According to the U.S. space agency, the Tweetups, now known as NASA Socials, have brought thousands of people who engage with the agency via social media together for unique in-person experiences of exploration and discovery.

NASA officials noted that the first Tweetup resulted in only 130 participants interested in meeting and speaking directly with NASA mission scientists and engineers. Since then, the events have grown to include thousands of participants, and have include various interactions — including a behind-the-scenes tour of JPL, a visit to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility where the Curiosity Mars rover was then under construction, and the mission control area of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

“Our first tweetup allowed space enthusiasts and the simply curious from around the country to meet with our mission personnel. Connections were formed that continue today, bringing together people with a passion for space from all walks of life,” said Veronica McGregor, Social Media Manager at JPL. “We knew immediately that we wanted to do more of these events.”

“It’s amazing how far we’ve come since the first NASA Tweetup,” added John Yembrick, NASA’s Social Media lead at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “Social media allows us to now connect directly with the public, who are now able to communicate directly with their space program.”

According to NASA, since 2009 the agency has hosted more than fifty  Tweetups at 15 locations. Attendees have had the opportunity to witness shuttle launches, and spacecraft launches to the moon, Jupiter and Mars; fly an F/A-18 flight simulator; and rub elbows with astronauts. Participants chosen at random from online submissions go behind the scenes at NASA facilities, take photos, ask questions and share the experience with their social media followers.

In 2012, NASA expanded the Tweetup program to include not only Twitter users, but Facebook, Google+. The agency has held a number of Google+ events, including an event aimed at discussing conspiracy theories about the end of the world in 2012. NASA has also used its presence in social media to connect with followers across the world. The U.S.-based space agency even has a Twitter account for its Mars Curiosity rover, which it updates about once a week.