NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, left, Sen. John Glenn, and NASA Glenn Research Center Director Ray Lugo, right, answer questions at a NASA Tweetup event celebrating John Glenn's legacy and 50 years of americans in orbit held at the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center on Friday, March 3, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA Tweetups have gained a cult-like following from space fans.
To qualify for one, you must follow @NASA on Twitter. The agency has more than 1.9 million followers. Once NASA announces a Tweetup, you fill out a simple online application which puts your name into a lottery with hundreds or thousands of other people.
Since the first NASA Tweetup in January of 2009, more than 2,000 people have participated in a NASA Tweetup, which provides a behind the scenes look at what goes on at a NASA facility.
I was lucky to win the NASA Tweetup lottery. I first applied to go to the Johnson Space Center in Houston Tweetup for the final space shuttle landing, but I was put on the wait list and I didn’t make it. When I heard that the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio planned to hold its first Tweetup to honor Astronaut and former Sen. John Glenn, I applied and I was selected as one of 75 Tweeters.
One of the best parts, NASA allowed us to bring guests. I took my 13-year-old son, Teddy.
Last Thursday, we flew to Cleveland, rented a car, got a hotel and the next morning we drove to the Glenn Research Center. (You pay for all of your own expenses including buying a box lunch.) Check in was between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. We made it with 10 minutes to spare. We boarded a bus and toured the center. We visited a zero gravity center and an exercise lab. We also went to a huge hanger and saw a variety of jets and demonstrations. Later, we travelled to the Great Lakes Science Center for lunch and to look at space exhibits. Then we attended a ceremony at Cleveland State University to honor former Sen. John Glenn, and the 50th anniversary of his orbit of the Earth in Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962.
One of the best parts was our Q & A Tweetup with Sen. Glenn. My son asked him about space tourism, which he is in favor of but he thinks someone needs to create better propulsion systems and the flights are too expensive right now.
Astronauts Mike Forman, Mike Good, Gregory Johnson and retired Astronaut Steven Lindsey also met with us and discussed the importance of investing in math and science education for kids to remain competition. They also talked about NASA’s funding cuts and the need to develop commercial transportation to the International Space Shuttle.
The entire experience was fabulous and I highly recommend attending a NASA Tweetup if you’re able to snag a ticket.
But when I got back to Texas I couldn’t help but want more. That’s when I learned about all the space-focused panels at South by Southwest this weekend and early next week.
Also, NASA has more than 100 Twitter accounts that allow you to follow astronauts, NASA facilities, administrators, researchers, staff and more. And NASA should have its own channel on cable television with all of its videos, pictures and stories that it publishes daily.
To find out more about NASA’s social media efforts or about commercial efforts at space travel by Austin’s own Richard Garriott, you might want to attend one of the following SXSW panels.

Richard Garriott’s Continuing Space Mission. Garriott debuted his documentary film “Man on a Mission” last year at the SXSW film festival. This year, he will talk about how the commercial space industry is changing the future. Garriott’s the first second-generation astronaut to fly in space. He travelled to the International Space Station in 2008. His talk is Saturday, March 10 from 12:30PM – 1:30PM at the Hilton Austin Downtown in Salon H.

NASA’s Mission Possible: Tweeting thru Space puts the spotlight on NASA’s social media outreach efforts. The panel features Erik Sowa, NASA Tweetup attendee and director of engineering at ExactTarget’s Social Media Lab, and Stephanie Schierholz, NASA’s former head of social media. The discussion takes place on Sunday, March 11 from 5:00PM – 6:00PM at the Omni Downtown Capital Ballroom.

How to Win Friends and Influence Space Exploration Sunday, March 11
12:30PM – 1:30PM at the Omni Downtown in the Capital Ballroom. “Not unlike a zombie horde ready to devour red tape and uninspired project managers, this enthusiastic movement sees brains as valuable assets to take over the world. Learn why these people got so passionately involved in space, how they became good friends over the Internet, and what they’ve created to make measurable change toward a more awesome tomorrow. While established membership organizations struggle to survive, these Internet-enabled groups are flourishing with new members from far outside traditional demographic lines that are creating large-scale activities. If you don’t already know a space tweep, learn why you will.”

SpacePoints: Space Outreach at Ludicrous Speed – Monday, March 12 at the Hilton from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Room 616AB “When NASA’s budget was drastically cut and the commercial aerospace industry found itself in charge of getting man into space, a group of “space geeks” consisting of web developers, aerospace scientists and engineers, and people who have a dream of living in space started meeting up and designed the rules, developed the application, and are sharing Space Points. They are increasing awareness publicly about space policy, increasing funding to aerospace-related research (commercial and government), and having fun playing to win!”