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On Saturday 28th of April 2012, 16 Mars tweeps & one bear (@SpaceHuggie) from UK, Denkmark, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Macedonia & Greece arrived in the morning with the cable car at the “Schönbergalm” (1,350 m). The weather was perfect (sunny & warm) and the Mars tweeps were in really good mood.
As organizer, I was of course a little bit stressed an anxious if the planned program worked out. It was the first Space Tweetup I was organizing for the Austria Space Forum and I planned a tight schedule, as we had the limitation of the last gondola leaving at 5:10 p.m.
So but why did they people came from across Europe to a small village called “Obertraun” in Austria? Well the Austrian Space Forum (OEWF) was conducting a five day Mars analog field test at the Dachstein giant ice caves and the OEWF invited 20 Space tweeps to experience live a Mars simulation. So not only the Dachstein Mars simulation was a premiere (1st Mars analog field test in caves) also a Space Tweetup was never held before in Austria.
In the morning we started with a short welcome message by Gernot Groemer, OEWF board member and project lead of the Dachstein Mars simulation, and me (@olidax), as I’m the Social Media Manager of the Austrian Space Forum. Then Alexander Soucek (@orbiterra), also from the OEWF, gave a keynote about fascination space & why doing analog simulations. Alexander was last year also at the Space Tweetup in Cologne and the space tweeps convinced him to join Twitter. As he didn’t tweet for several weeks, the Mars tweeps at Dachstein encouraged him to tweet again, which he did. But @orbiterra we really want to hear more from you on Twitter!
Before leaving to the cave entry for the first time, each Mars tweep just gave a short introduction so that we finally got a face & real name to their Twitter nicknames.
While on our way up to the cave entry (ca. 15 min uphill walk), we met the Asimov R3 rover of the Part-Time Scientists (@ptscientists), a German Google Lunar X-Prize competitor, which first made contact to the mountain terrain. Of course we had to stop for some photos as Asimov is a really cute rover. Looking forward to see him making first wheel prints on the moon soon :-)
20 min later we arrived at the cave entry (we had to stop to enjoy the beautiful view ;-)). The donning of the space suit had begun and Daniel Schildhammer (suit tester), was already wearing the exoskeleton. Therefore he had some time to answer some questions of the Mars tweeps and SpaceHuggie got the chance to try the Aouda.X spacesuits hard upper torso on.
Then the Polish MAGMA White rover arrived together with the team of the WISDOM radar. WISDOM is a geo-radar which will fly 2018 on ExoMars, the European Mars rover. Both Principal Investigators explained their experiments and answered all the question of the Mars tweeps.
Finally we had also the chance to see how difficult it is to put the Aouda.X hard upper torso on a suit tester, as Daniel was so kind to proceed with the next donning procedure.
Saturday was media day; therefore the Mars tweeps had to leave the cave entry, as the next 2-3 hours were scheduled for journalists, camera teams & photographers.
So the program continued at the “schönbergalm” to get some insight in experiments. Franco Carbognani from the Italian Mars Society explained the ERAS C3 experiment, which read the Aouda.X telemetry data stream and helps to develop a software to train future (analog) simulations. Afterwards Robert Böhme from the Part-Time Scientists gave some insights into their plans winning the Google Lunar X-Prize. And of course Mars tweeps got time to post their photos & tweets with the hashtag #marstweetup.
After lunch, another uphill walk to the cave was scheduled. This time we were entering the cave and see some of the experiments in action. First we came to the Tristan dome, an ice dome with a really deep cliff. On Sunday the French Cliffbot went over this steep cliff. We found the WISDOM radar, hiding in a small cavern and the MAGMA White rover at the Parsival dome. We went further down searching for the Aouda.X spacesuit simulator and found it at the King-Arthur dome with a camera team. Unfortunately, this time, Daniel didn’t have time to talk with us, but we saw how difficult it is, and for sure very exhausting, just to pick up a stone from the cave floor. Inside the cave the temperature dropped down to 0 degree Celsius, while outside it was a hot summer day.
After the cave visit we made also a quick tour through our OPS (Operation), which was controlling the whole mission. With a video call to the JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab), where Aaron Noel explained us the contamination experiments and answered our questions and a call to the MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station) to the KiwiMars mission the Mars Tweetup program ended just in time.
But then the Mars tweeps totally surprise me. They made a poster for me, including all their signatures. Thank you very much again; I’m really happy about the poster & you’ll get soon a picture from its final destination at the OEWF Spacesuit Laboratory in Innsbruck.
My lessons learned from the day:
- Location indoor was not perfect, there was not enough space for the presentations
- The Tweetup was held at the Media day, therefore we had to make some comprises regarding the cave visit. If possible, I would like to do a Tweetup not on the Media day, to get more exclusive view behind the scenes
- Don’t be in charge of the @oewf twitter account, when you’re organizing the Tweetup ;-)
- Organizing Tweetups is fun & if you read all the tweets & photos afterwards it’s absolutely worth the stress :-)
- #spaceunites (quoting @JustBe74 & @akanel)
This Mars Tweetup was probably the highest place a Space Tweetup ever was held (ca. 1,400 m over sea level) with the most beautiful view (embedded in an alpine landscape) and also the most exhausting one for the space tweeps.
The day ended with a #beerup in the evening, but that’s a different story.
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