Tweeps gather for a photo beneath the magnificent 70-metre dish
at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
Photo: Martin Ollman - CSIRO/CDSCC
Mars Science Laboratory
Launch to Mars marked the end of a Spectacular Tweetup
Monday, 28 November 2011
good things come to an end...but for the very first CSIRO Tweetup,
no one really wanted it to.
six and a half hours after it began, the tweetup signed off following
the launch of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission and the
acquisition of the spacecraft's signal through the antennas of
the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex.
of tired tweeps went off to sleep before heading home to places
around Australia and overseas. Even before they left however, many were
talking about getting together again for when Curiosity lands
on Mars in August 2012.
certainly something we can consider doing" said Tweetup
host, Glen Nagle. "This whole experience has created something
new and exciting in the way we communicate science with the public.
Getting people directly involved in these events and allowing
them to share that experience with potentially tens of thousands
of other people online is what a tweetup is all about. The more
we do this, the more the public will come to appreciate that
science plays an important part in their life on Earth, even
when we are going off to explore Mars."
An Atlas rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying
the Mars rover Curiosity. Photo: NASA/KSC
space explorers all around us
of the highlights of the CSIRO Tweetup was the fantastic line-up
of guest presenters. Scientists and researchers working in diverse
fields from planetary geology and gravitational mapping, to deep
space astrophysics and stratospheric ballooning, and from studying
tiny specks of asteroidal dust to the infinite structure of the
of the Tweetup was in no small way due to these speakers who
were so willing to give their time and to share with us their
passion for science and provide insights into the work they do.
a surprise to some at the event that there was so much going
on in Australian science and many wondered why we don't hear
more about it. There are so many great stories to be told and
so much to be proud of. "Maybe we should have a permanent
#ScienceTweetup to tell everyone what's happening."
suggested one attendee.
science geeks, it was wonderful to discover that real space explorers
are all around us.
Dr Daniel Shaddock
Classical And Physical Optics
Quantum Optics, Lasers And Quantum Electronics
Astronomical And Space Instrumentation
General Relativity And Gravitational Waves
Stellar Astronomy And Planetary Systems
Dr Paul Tregoning
Australian National University
Photogrammetry And Remote Sensing
Gravimetrics Water Resources Engineering
Physical Oceanography Tectonics Geodesy
Tropospheric And Stratospheric Physics
Atmospheric Sciences Geophysics
Environmental Science And Management
Ms Marion Anderson
Geochemistry of Yarra Valley billabongs
Mineralogy and geomorphology of Mars
Early evolution of life
Mr Robert Hollow
(UNSW) Dip Ed
Coordinator of CSIRO's PULSE@Parkes program
Student investigations using real astronomy data Citizen
Dr Ravi Sood
X-ray astronomy instruments for use on space-borne and
stratospheric balloon payloads
Multi-wavelength study of selected neutron star and black-hole
Stratospheric balloon flights for scientific research
Dr Trevor Ireland
University of Otago, NZ
Application of ion microprobes to the understanding of
the isotopic nature of materials at the microscale
Characterisation of provenance of dust grains in the early
Analysis of lunar soil for implanted solar wind
Analysis of refractory meteorite components for evidence
of the characteristics of the solar nebula
A huge thanks to all our brilliant speakers. We were excited
to have you with us and cannot say enough about how grateful
we were that you came by and shared your science with us.
A funny moment when tweeps pointed skyward "Hey Curiosity,
Mars is thataway or maybe thataway!" Photo: CDSCC
could dampen our tweeps enthusiasm
weather wasn't always on our side during the Tweetup. In fact
the Friday afternoon was downright bad - cold and wet. But nothing
could dampen our tweeps enthusiasm.
the downpour they all still wanted to take the site tour. Huddled
under umbrellas or wearing plastic raincoats, they braved the
elements to take a closer look at the 70-metre dish - Deep Space
was in one way a blessing because we were afforded the chance
to show everyone the main Operations Room through its viewing
gallery windows. The nerve centre of the Complex, each of the
antennas is controlled from that room - "Sort of air-traffic
control for space", Glen said.
delay for Curiosity's launch meant that our Saturday morning
schedule changed slightly and gave us an extra hour in the morning.
As if by some miracle, just after breakfast the skies cleared
and so we headed back to the Complex from our accommodation just
down the road to enjoy a walking tour in beautiful sunshine.
Complex put on a show with all the dishes moving at exactly the
right times so we could watch each glide smoothly around to link
up to and communicate with spacecraft hundreds of millions of
kilometres away. You couldn't have planned it better. The planets
literally aligned for us that morning.
CLICK TO ENLARGE. Tweeps gather in front of DSS43 - the largest
dish in the southern hemisphere Photo: Martin Ollman - CSIRO
original schedule had the Tweetup finishing on Saturday at 3pm,
but with the launch slip the organisers decided to extend the
event until the launch which was scheduled for Sunday 27th at
2.02am local time.
could stay however, as some had fixed travel arrangements that
couldn't be changed. Most though were able to extend their stay
and so following the afternoon talks at the CSIRO Discovery centre
in town, a few headed off to explore Canberra's fantastic museums
and galleries, while others preferred to relax, eat and
talk with their fellow space tweep alumni.
of a tradition at the NASA and JPL Tweetups is the so called
'endless bbq'. One of the attendees had been a part of the tweetup
for the final Space Shuttle mission and had enjoyed the company
that this side event brings. A suitable location was found in
Canberra and a few 'toasts' kicked off this 'imported' but new
tradition downunder. Thanks @astro_geeky
to the tracking station on Saturday evening, we settled in to
watch the launch.
ticked by and we regularly checked reports from NASA launch blogs
and scanned weather reports at the Cape. Around 11pm coverage
began on NASA TV which was up on the big screen in the CDSCC
same time, we noticed that the CSIRO-CDSCC staff were coming
in to begin final preparations for the Complex's crucial communication
role. It was all becoming very real and we knew that we were
here to be a part of space exploration history.
continued and the final two hours seemed to fly by. We were kept
busy with extra talks on 'women in space exploration' and also
about how things had changed in the past few years with the availability
of so much 'real time' data being released from space missions
like the Mars Exploration Rovers - Spirit and Opportunity, plus
the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn and others. People started using
the images released and were processing it themselves and sharing
the views they created online.
a picture from Mars hits the ground, you could be the first person
to see it because it might be the middle of the day here but
the scientists are still asleep over there." Glen said.
CLICK TO ENLARGE. Antennas at CDSCC catching the first few rays
of dawn while tracking Curiosity and Mars. Photo: CDSCC
to space exploration history
the last few hours, we started chatting via Twitter with our
fellow space tweep alumni attending the #NASATweetup at
Cape Canaveral. Tweeting around the world we shared our experience
of being witnesses to space exploration history.
final few minutes, all tweeting suddenly seemed to cease. Moments
were left in the countdown and then 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and
liftoff! The Atlas rocket thundered off the launch pad and we
were enthralled with the images coming down. Applause rippled
through the room and each step of ascent process was greeted
NASA confirmed what we had seen, a flawless launch. We knew at
this stage that Curiosity was heading to Mars but first had to
pass by Canberra.
30 minutes after launch we all headed out into the cold and misty
rain and gathered to watch the two 34-metre antennas wait to
acquire the signal from the spacecraft's cruise stage as it came
over our western horizon. In less than a minute from the expected
time, the two antennes slowly began moving, silent in the night.
These 'giant ears' had heard something and followed it across
came over the Complex's loudspeakers telling the staff that they
had made contact with the probe - we heard it too and cheered
again. We headed back to Tweetup central and excitedly chatted
about what we had seen.
launch we had been remote witnesses, thousands of kilometres
away from the action and perhaps feeling one step removed from
on that night we all stood together in the chill Canberra air
knowing that we had just been first-hand witnesess to
history as Curiosity silently slipped overhead on its way to
the red planet.
travelled half way around the world to see us, so we waved her
"goodbye and good luck", "thanks for passing by",
"see you next year on Mars!"
August 2012 anyone?!
can follow the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex via
follow CSIRO on social media via Twitter at
http://www.twitter.com/CSIROnews and on Facebook
about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/
follow the Mars Curiosity mission on social media via Twitter
at http://www.twitter.com/MarsCuriosity and Facebook
information about the Tweetup, please contact at:
Deep Space Communication Complex
Glen Nagle - Education and Outreach Manager
via email or phone: 02
6201 7838 (bus.hours)
Vanessa Hill - Communications
via email or mobile: 0412
409 971 (bus.hours)