July 1, 2011 at 12:17 AM ET
All four of the astronauts on NASA's final space shuttle mission have Twitter accounts, but which one is Atlantis' "alpha tweeter"? That was one of the easiest questions to answer at Thursday's crew news conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"I get that prize," mission specialist Sandy Magnus, also known as @Astro_Sandy, said after a quick look around at her crewmates. The numbers bear out her claim: She has more than 14,600 followers, far ahead of mission commander Chris Ferguson's (@Astro_Ferg) tally of slightly fewer than 2,000 followers. Her other crewmates, Rex Walheim (@Astro_Rex) and pilot Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug), lag a bit further behind.
Magnus' status as Atlantis' top tweeter isn't going to her head. The way she sees it, she got that top status merely by tweeting early and often. "I have the quantity but I don't necessarily have the quality," she said humbly.
She began using her Twitter account almost exactly two years ago, when she went to Iraq on a USO morale-boosting tour. Magnus said she figured that few people would be interested in hearing what she was having for breakfast, but some people might like to hear how her Middle East trip was going. After that, Magnus passed along periodic updates — and she picked up the pace dramatically this March during her training for Atlantis' even more exotic trip, which is due to begin on July 8.
"The whole crew will soon be up on Twitter," she wrote at the time. "We've been very very busy!!"
Magnus has been the busiest by far when it comes to Twitter. She's posted more tweets than the other three astronauts combined (including a single tweet by Hurley).
Over the past two years, astro-tweets have become standard procedure for shuttle missions, and although it's hard to predict how much time Magnus and her crewmates will have during Atlantis' flight to pass along 140-character updates, it sounds as if Ferguson is catching the social-networking bug as well. After Magnus claimed the Twitter crown, the commander recalled checking out his survival radio during a training session ... and asking, "Can it tweet?"
To scan the updates from all the astronauts, you can follow @NASA_Astronauts. And to see what's on the minds of the 150 Twitter users who are participating in the Atlantis mission's NASA Tweetup (plus hangers-on like me), search for the #NASATweetup hashtag.
More about the last shuttle mission:
Stay tuned for more from Johnson Space Center this week, and much more about the shuttle program's final mission next week.
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