NASA Social: The SpaceX CRS-19 Rocket Launch

The NASA Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Station.

NASA Social is a program to provide opportunities for NASA’s social media followers to learn and share information about NASA’s missions, people, and programs. As those of you who follow me on social media already know, I was one of 50 social media pros that were invited to attend the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of Dragon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida last month.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of Dragon for the 19th commercial re-supply mission to the International Space Station.
This is a professional photo of the CRS-19 launch that I witnessed on December 5th, 2019. See the rest of the official SpaceX launch photos here.

The launch was SpaceX’s 19th commercial cargo resupply services mission to the International Space Station (ISS). In addition to 5,700 pounds of supplies, the Dragon spacecraft contained materials to support over 250 science and research investigations that will take place on the ISS. NASA Social provided an amazing opportunity to tour NASA facilities, attend a televised press conference, meet a diverse group of dynamic people, and of course, watch the rocket launch!

The NASA Veggie Project

The NASA veggie lab at the Kennedy Space Center.

We toured the NASA Veggie Lab and learned about the future of food production in deep space. We also met the scientists who are working hard to develop plants that can grow in space at the International Space Station to provide nutrition for the astronauts on board. We learned that their focus right now is on “pick and eat” produce like cherry tomatoes that don’t require any preparation. This research is important for several reasons. First, the nutritional quality of the packaged food that makes up a bulk of the astronauts diets degrades over time. Second, the opportunity to grow food in space will reduce the amount of packaged food that we need to launch up to space. This is more and more important the further away humans get from the earth.

Whats On Board Dragon: SpaceX CRS 19 Briefing

The day before the launch was scheduled, we had the opportunity to attend the “Whats On Board Dragon: SpaceX CRS 19” briefing held at the Kennedy Space Center (see what question I asked at 00:10:33!). During the televised briefing, several of the scientists who were sending experiments up to the ISS presented the goals of their research.

The press briefing prior to the SpaceX Fakcon9 launch of Dragon in December 2020.
Photo taken by Zac Hall (@apollozac) during the “Whats On Board Dragon: SpaceX CRS 19” briefing on December 3, 2019.

I was surprised to learn that material for thirty-eight experiments were included in the launch. Read more about the experiments here. One of my favorites is the “Mighty Mice” experiment. Astronauts suffer muscle and bone loss resulting from exposure to microgravity. This experiment aims to study whether the proteins myostatin and activin in mice can help mitigate muscle and bone loss during spaceflight. The results of this experiment will also inform treatment options for patients who suffer from conditions such as osteoporosis on earth.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch of Dragon

The launch itself was scheduled for December 4th, but was re-scheduled for December 5th due to high altitude winds and variable winds around the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, upon which the Falcon 9 booster B1058 was scheduled to land. Luckily I was able to reschedule my flight and stay for the launch, which was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed.

People watching a SpaceX rocket launch.
Here I am with other NASA Social participants during the launch! From left, @StinaRowland, @SwordandSnore, @JackPhan, me, and @GuywithGolden

We anxiously awaited confirmation that the weather conditions were acceptable for the launch after the cancellation the day prior. The excitement built as we heard live countdown updates on the intercom. 2 minutes. 30 seconds. 10, 9, 8…3, 2, 1, blast off! We watched in awe as the rocket slowly began it’s journey to space. It was bright. It was beautiful. We heard a load roar and felt vibrations throughout our bodies at a delay. The rocket finally ascended out of our view, leaving a trail of smoke in it’s wake. I was shook. Adrenaline was pulsing through my veins as I experienced something I knew would be impossible to use words to describe. Space nerd level 100 – activated.

GIF of the SpaceX Falcon launch of Dragon blasting off.
I made this GIF with photos that I took during the launch!

The NASA Social Participants

NASA Social participants posing outside the astronaut walkout ramp outside the crew quarters at Kennedy Space Center.
Here we are at the astronaut walkout ramp, outside the crew quarters at Kennedy Space Center.

It was incredible to spend a few days with a diverse cohort of fellow space enthusiasts, including students, YouTubers, mom bloggers, entrepreneurs, engineers, pilots, photographers, etc. ranging in age from college students to retirees. I learned so much from each and every one of these incredible humans. I was so inspired by the group that NASA Social put together and plan on keeping in touch with many of them.

Some of the NASA Social participants smiling after the SpaceX rocket launch.
Some of the NASA Social crew on launch day! The adrenaline was rising! From left, @TeresaMoon3, me, @katebomb, @SpacePadreIsle, @StinaRowland, @yoandrewp, and @JackPhan.

Are you interested in upcoming NASA Social opportunities? Check out their website here, or sign up to receive email updates.

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