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NASA's Next Mission: The Tweetup

The space agency plans to host 100 Twitter users at Kennedy Space Center for next month's launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

As part of its expanding use of social media, NASA plans to host 100 Twitter users at Kennedy Space Center for next month's launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Invitations to the so-called Tweetup will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. The space agency will open registration at noon, Eastern time, on Oct. 16.

NASA plans a two-day event for those accepted. It will include a meet and greet session with NASA's staff Twitterers, a tour of the space center, a chance to meet shuttle technicians, engineers, and astronauts, and the Nov. 12 shuttle launch. Atlantis is scheduled to take off at 4:04 eastern on its way to the International Space Station.

It's the latest in series of steps NASA has taken to employ social media tools to engage the public in its work. Nearly 150,000 people now follow NASA on Twitter. NASA's recently appointed CIO Linda Cureton has a Twitter account, as does Chris Kemp, CIO of NASA's Ames Research Center. Kemp is also the architect of NASA's Nebula cloud computing environment, a potential prototype for other U.S. government computing clouds. (Cureton and Kemp are among InformationWeek's Government CIO 50.)

The space agency is also using social networking tools for internal knowledge sharing.

Twitterers who make it into the NASA event are expected to pay for their own travel and accommodations. The registration form for NASA's Tweetup is here.

A word of warning to anyone thinking of making the trip. I once traveled to the Kennedy Space Center to photograph a shuttle launch, only to have the flight scrubbed with a few seconds remaining in the countdown, due to inclement weather. NASA warns, "Hundreds of different factors can cause a scheduled launch date to change numerous times." Of course, even that could make for good Tweeting.

You can follow John Foley on Twitter.

Read InformationWeek's first-ever analysis of top CIOs in federal, state, and local government, and how they're embracing new expectations. Download the report here (registration required).

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