How a tweet led to a rocket factory

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This is the little story of how Foursquare and Twitter led to a VIP visit to Space X, the rocket factory, back in 2010.

A spaniard enters a commercial rocket factory

I was at a conference in Irvine, CA. This is when I worked as a fellow of the Space Studies Board of the National Academies. The sessions were great but I had no plans the evening of the first day. After I was done with work I went to the bar for a quick bite. It occurred to me that may be they had a Foursquare deal, so I used my mobile to check in. Indeed they had a free appetizer if you ordered a beer. Cool.

I also noticed someone else had checked-in there 10 minutes before. Out of curiosity I clicked her profile and she had a linked Twitter account. She was a science journalist that was also participating on the conference. Few minutes before she had tweeted about the same appetizer I had ordered. She had done a great presentation earlier that day and I was dying to know more about her work. I tweeted her and waited for her phone to ping to make sure she would tie that random connection when I introduced myself:

We started chatting about Twitter and Foursquare which were fairly unknown services back then. Really nice conversation. Then we talked about the conference, our common background interest in space and what not. I must have had a poker face when she asked If I knew Space X. Turns out she is a good friend of Elon Musk, and she was going to visit the rocket factory the next day. She then offered me to come along.

Elon was somewhere else taking care of some “Tesla” thing that day, but his personal assistant Mary Beth and the astronaut Ken Bowersox gave us an awesome tour around the rocket factory. I had many technical questions, and Jeff was very keen to answer all of them. Had I been american I would have quit my job at NAS to work there (ITAR regulations prohibit us foreigners to do so, or even see some types of hardware. My previous work at Department of Defense calibrating a rocket camera was borderline, so I knew well about it. For my work at NRL and visits at the NASA JPL and the Pentagon I was kind of used to that. Very annoying). Still with the ITAR restriction Ken and Mary Beth were very accommodating to make sure we stayed on ITAR limits but make it a great experience.

Space X

And that´s how I got a personalized visit to Space X, by the hand of an astronaut. You can see all the pictures here on Flickr. Surely it was not only a tweet, but a combination of really awesome people like Christie, Mary Beth and Ken, my professional interest on space and being so proactive. But still, like in this story where Charlie Loyd landed a job at Mapbox it was the flapping of the butterfly wings.

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Thank you Christie, Mary Beth and Ken. You are awesome.

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