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Biggest Lessons Learned at NASA Social 

Earlier in March, I applied to and was ultimately selected for the opportunity to participate in a NASA Social event—a milestone for any social media professional or creator. In May, I spent a long weekend at Kennedy Space Center leading up to the anticipated launch of Starliner (Calypso), a human crew test flight linking with the International Space Station. 



The NASA Social team curated a weekend with exclusive pre-launch activities, including tours of the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, the Crawler Yard, the Boeing Factory, and the expansive Kennedy grounds. We also participated in a live social media briefing with experts from NASA, Boeing, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), and the ISS. 


(our NASA Social Group taking a selfie with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson)


Alongside 27 professionals from across a dozen states—spanning food and travel bloggers, space and aeronautics enthusiasts, higher education faculty, and fellow social media influencers—I was part of a diverse and vibrant community, seeing things only a few ever see. 


Here are my ten biggest takeaways from this unforgettable experience.


Take a chance on new experiences. Many people asked if I was interested in space travel before this event. Truthfully, I wasn't. While I've been a long-time Star Wars fan, my interest leaned more toward the sci-fi side of space travel rather than the scientific aspect. However, I was eager to learn alongside other social media professionals and craved a unique experience beyond traditional conferences and webinars. This event provided the perfect opportunity to network in an experiential and educational setting.


(me with the social media team at NASA Kennedy)


Find your people. Admittedly, I often struggle to put my phone away after hours, and even during work, I sometimes worry that people are judging me for being on my device, even though I promise I'm working. The organizers included ample time for content capture each event day, encouraging us to take out our devices and document the moment with photos and videos. Being around other creators who understood this was a breath of fresh air, allowing me to focus on my work without feeling self-conscious.


(some of the NASA Social group photographers and videographers setting up the perfect shot)


Communication is king. Participating in a live social media debrief was an exciting highlight of our first day. I was eager to see how each organization collaborated and communicated crucial details leading up to the launch. The answers to my questions were incredibly informative and are something I'll take away from this weekend.


(start at 30:40)


The difference between being risk-tolerant and failure-tolerant. Though the launch was postponed due to a faulty valve, it highlighted a crucial aspect of social media management: the balance between calculated and unnecessary risks. Taking calculated risks is essential, but avoiding unnecessary risks is vital for effective brand building. Embracing failure as part of the process is equally important, providing valuable opportunities to learn and grow. This experience underscored that while risk-taking is necessary, being failure-tolerant allows for continuous improvement and resilience.


(yes, there is a BIG RED BUTTON)


It's all in the details. Have you heard about how Alabama river rock paves the path for rockets heading toward launch? According to the NASA Kennedy website, these river rocks are mostly quartz, round, and 3-4 inches in diameter, which are crucial for handling high weight tolerances. They act like ball bearings, allowing the crawler to turn with minimal issues. When the crawler's weight rolls over the rocks, they absorb the energy from compaction, reducing vibrations on the surface that could damage any flight hardware being transported. Besides being easily accessible and affordable, river rock provides the crawler's support. Seeing a nod to my home state was thrilling, and it was fascinating to learn how much thought goes into these processes.


(I'm 5'2"... for reference)


Posting the bad pics. How many pictures does a photographer take to get the best shot? The perfect shot? If my phone's gallery is any indication, I may take dozens of selfies before I find one I actually like, and I'm not even a photographer. Watching my friends in the NASA Social cohort go through their documentation process was a treat, as I'm always looking for ideas, inspiration, and ways to improve my own workflow. One of my photographer friends brought up an important point: we don't tend to work out loud as creatives. We don't post the bad pics, even though we know it's only through the "bad ones" that we end up with something special. It's time we brought that authenticity into our creative process and shared our journey more openly.



(follow my friend Tony at @DollarShots on IG)


Visibility into important projects. Working out loud, as seen during this experience, is essential for all organizations and creators because it fosters transparency, collaboration, and learning. By making your process and progress visible, you build trust. It allows you to document your learning journey, providing valuable lessons for others while reflecting on your growth. Sharing your work openly (to an extent, of course) creates accountability, motivating you to stay on track and meet commitments. This experience was a great way to do that, which brings me to my next point...


Social holds more power and influence than you think. Social media plays a crucial role in shaping public perception, influencing reputation, and driving critical elements of strategic communication. By engaging digital creators and influencers, NASA leverages the power of social media to amplify its message and reach a broader audience. When these creators and influencers (like me!) are excited about NASA's projects and invited to participate in unique experiences, they become enthusiastic advocates for the brand. Ultimately, this strategy helps NASA to inspire and educate the public, garnering support for its initiatives. 



(selfie with NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman)


There's doing a job and doing it well. One of the most memorable aspects of our trip was our bus driver, Laura. Laura went above and beyond the typical duties of her role, transforming our bus rides into special trips. With her infectious humor and engaging storytelling, she filled our time on the bus and shared special insider information that gave us unique insights into the places we visited, making the journey even more enriching. She was also incredibly considerate, often slowing down the bus just enough for us to capture perfect shots of rockets, alligators, and other sights along the way. 


(Fully air-conditioned and comfy bus? In Florida, it's a must.)


Allow yourself to fully nerd out. The highlight of the experience was undoubtedly being surrounded by people who shared an affinity for all things NASA. There is something invigorating about being in the company of individuals who are excited and passionate about what they are experiencing. As adults, we often get caught up in the routine and responsibilities of daily life, making it easy to forget the joy of being fully immersed in pure, unadulterated fun. Moments like these are essential—they remind us of the importance of letting go and indulging in our interests with childlike wonder. When was the last time you allowed yourself to fully embrace a passion and dive deep into "nerd mode" about something you love? These moments of joy reignite our curiosity and bring a refreshing sense of fulfillment to our lives.


(the VAB made me feel so smol)


Verdict? 


I wholeheartedly recommend a NASA Social experience to any digital creator, social media professional, or anyone with an online audience who shares an interest in space and exploration. It's an incredible opportunity to engage with NASA's work firsthand and create captivating content. I look forward to participating in more of these events in the future. 


But in the meantime... I will continue to keep my eyes on the heavens, eagerly watching NASA's successes as they shine across the galaxy.






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