UI instructor will tweet from shuttle launch

UI instructor will tweet from shuttle launch

A University of Illinois instructor will be tweeting live from the final shuttle flight.

Joanne Manaster is one of 150 selected — out of 5,500 who applied — to attend the last shuttle launch today as part of the NASA tweetup, where Twitter users congregate online.

Manaster can be followed on Twitter at @sciencegoddess.

That assumes that bad weather doesn't delay the launch.

NASA hopes to send Atlantis on its historic mission at 11:26 a.m. EDT unless lightning and thunderstorms prevent it.

An instructor in the UI School of Integrative Biology, Manaster, 45, said she has a lifelong passion for the sciences.

It began with the moon landing in 1969, when her mother called her outside to join in celebration of the event. It didn't hurt that her earliest childhood days were at the former Chanute Air Force Base.

"It's a lifelong passion. At first I wanted to be an astronomer, then I decided to study physics, and in college I found that I enjoyed teaching," she said. "I like cutting-edge, newer science."

At the UI, Manaster is creating online coursework to help create a master's degree in teaching science.

She said NASA "has been having tweetups for quite some time" but this one will be special as the end of an era.

Manaster said she couldn't be sure which direction NASA will take for exploration after retiring the workhorse shuttle, but wonders if it will be something more like the Mercury capsules of the 1960s.

"I don't think that they're going to have something as costly as the shuttle," she said. "They are going to have an announcement after the launch."

Manaster said a new picture could emerge as China and Japan enter a field once dominated by the U.S. and Russia.

Manaster has also just been hired to blog at scientificamerican.com.

Scientific American has launched a new network of 60 bloggers connecting science and public policy, including two other UI staffers, Manaster said — Alex Wild, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology, and Kate Clancy, a researcher on the effects of ecology on fecundity.