Had a blast at the JPL Tweetup


Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) @MarsPhoenix tweets capture the imagination of more than forty thousand people on the popular micro-blogging site Twitter.

On January 21, 2009, JPL hosted a “tweetup” and my wife and I were lucky enough to make the short 150-person list.

We arrived at the Pasadena facility a few minutes late but we could have caught that part from our phones, since they had the first portion of the event on USTREAM.

Our entertainment started in the parking lot with one of the participant’s Star Wars wheels. People were popping pictures of it as if it was Paris Hilton with a 4G iPhone.

I think I'm at JPL now!
I think I'm at JPL now!

During the program we were introduced to the full JPL crew on Twitter including Veronica MCGregor who tweets @MarsPhoenix, @MarsRover, and @MarsScienceLab. Then there was a Q&A session where we learned how JPL first got on Twitter (first suggested by Rhea Borja) and how a timely Wired article by Alexis Madrigal helped launch the @MarsPhoenix phenomenon. JPL also documented the talk and questions via Ustream, some of the questions came in via the Web.

JPL Tweetup Q&A
JPL Tweetup Q&A

We had some time to look at all the incredible exhibits and even had a chance to be run over by a mini rover.

We also toured one of the massive clean room facilities then made our way to the Phoenix Mars Lander room. We learned about all the technology used on the orbiter – surprisingly much of it is very “old” but proven technology.

Our next stop was the Mission Control room (I don’t think that’s its official name but I’m sticking with that). While there we also learned that one of the presenters is a technical consultant on Battlestar Gallactica!

JPL Mission Control
JPL Mission Control

Click here to view video of Mission Control room.

As you may have figured out by now, JPL is Disneyland for space junkies. And yes, I consider myself a space junkie having worked at JPL for two summers and having been one of few teenage members of the Planetary Society back in the 80’s.

I feel fortunate to have been a part of this historic tweetup. It is one of the best examples of building and maintaining a real and lasting Fan Base.


Here is a list of JPL folks on Twitter.

@veronicaMcG – Veronica McGregor (aka @MarsPhoenix, @MarsRovers and @MarsScienceLab; manager of JPL News Services

@JPL_DC – DC Agle, staff news rep for inner solar system, comets and asteroids

@saturngem – Carolina Martinez, staff news rep for Cassini mission to Saturn, and outer solar system missions

@johncallas – John Callas, project manager for the Mars Exploration Rovers

@notorious_phd , scientist for Mars Science Lab

@jet_burns – Charles White, he set up Explore Island in Second Life

@jhjones – Jane Houston Jones, outreach for the Cassini mission, she tweets as @CassiniSaturn (and she does our What’s Up video series).

@shadude – Shadan Ardalan, navigator for the Cassini mission

@YoungBobD – Bob Denise, Phoenix mission

@gyeehill – Gay Yee Hill, video producer (and our commentator for major mission events)

@janeplatt – JPL News Chief; she was working Ustream chat that night

@rheaB – staff rep for technology and education

@jeanne_JPL – Jeanne Holm, Chief Knowledge Architect

@marsroverdriver – Scott Maxwell. Self Explanatory!

@tomassoderstrom – Chief of IT at JPL

@rsullivant – Rosemary Sullivant, science writer for Earth missions and occasionally Cassini

@susanwatanabe – currently the Web page manager (moving soon to our education office to manage that Web page)