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Spytacular Tweetup at the Cosmosphere

Spytacular BadgeFirst for those of you who don’t know what is a Tweetup, it is an event organized by people with a like interest or organizations in order to share a common experience and communicate that experience to others. The name comes from the use of the social network Twitter. One of the largest aerospace users of Tweetups has been NASA Originally called a NASA Tweetup they have recently renamed them to NASA Social due to the use of other social media networks such as Face Book, Google+, Pinterest, etc.

The main draw for this tweet up was the gathering of SR-71 Blackbird crew at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center where the crews gave talks and hung out under the SR-71 answering questions from the public.

CosmosphereLocated in Hutchinson, Kansas the Cosmosphere is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and has three primary missions:

-  Museum

-  Education & Camps

-  Restoration & Replication

The Spytacular Tweetup touched all three areas.

 

Events:

We first stopped at the airport due to an all night thunderstorm and we knew the airplane we flew down in had a leaky door seal. Sure enough, the carpet was soaked. After cleaning up the airplane and getting it into a hangar, we hung out with some of the SR-71 crew and had a nice chat with the local EAA chapter members. Realizing we were running late, we didn’t wait for the SR-71 pilots to head to the museum; instead, we headed off solo to meet up with the rest of the Tweetup group.

Moon Rock BoxThe Tweetup group was already in the white glove tour of the collections department. There, we got to see some items that where anything from space-worn spacesuits to backup suits for many astronauts. We even got to see a precisely machined transfer box used to bring back moon rocks on two Apollo missions. We were also presented with several items recovered from Liberty Bell 7.

SR-71 PanelAfter the amazing tour, we headed up to the “Blackbird Reflections Panel” where the audience heard stories from a few SR-71 Pilots, RSOs, and a Crew Chief. The panel was enjoyable and interesting but one RSO went on a to describe a bit too much about his life after the SR. We did get to hear some great stories about what it was like to fly the SR-71 over Cuba, China, North Korea, Vietnam, etc. Additionally, how not only was it used as a spy plane but also used to trigger responses from the adversary to allow other aircraft to gather electronic data and also to send a political message of “we are watching.”

After the round table, we headed to another table: lunch with all of the members SR-71 crew.  Funny enough, I ended up talking a lot more about other aircraft including the F-104 than the SR-71 over lunch.

Following lunch was the viewing of the movie “Air Racers”. Aeroseums happened to be in Reno at the National Championship Air Races while this was being filmed so it was very interesting to see their perspective of the race, the shooting areas, and methods. The main problem I had was the stretching of the movie that was designed for a flat screen but projected onto a dome. It caused some motion sickness in this pilot.

PanelThe SpaceWorks Facility tour was our next stop; this is where the Cosmosphere does its restoration of artifacts and production of replicas. This facility restored such artifacts as Apollo 13 and Liberty Bell 7. It was very interesting to see how low-tech and manual most tasks are.

Apollo 13The next hour was a tour of the entire museum by one of the staff members. Having this tour was great because our guides pointed out exhibit pieces that you would normally walk past or may not notice. The layout of the museum was fantastic; I wish more museums would be laid out this way — but more about that in our review of the Cosmosphere.

Wrapping up the day was a meet and greet with a representative from Lockheed who contributed to the SR-71 program in its final days. We compared the SR program at the end to the beginning, and discussed the follow-on Skunkworks programs such as the F-117, at least as much as he could publically talk about. Following that was a BBQ dinner under the SR-71. I cannot think of a better atmosphere than dining under a Blackbird to finish such a great day.

Impression:

SR-71 noseThis was the first tweetup that the Cosmosphere organized and simply put we could not recommend this event more. If they have a tweetup again we would love to attend. The amount of information we learned and the people we were privileged to meet was fantastic. Being able to have the run of the museum, see the behind the scenes, and interact with the staff and the SR-71 guests was everything and more than I expected.

Meeting Richard Hollowell (CEO) and some of his executive team and conversing about our impressions of the Cosmosphere was great; you could feel the passion he and his team have for this museum and educational center.

Meredith Miller, thanks so much for such great information about the archives and giving us the behind the scenes tour.

Glen Duran who gave us the museum tour and stuck by the group during the entire tweetup, you rocked it, thanks so much.

Most of all Katie Gillmore who helped us with every question we had. You did an outstanding job of coordinating this event.

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