Jose Lopez, a New Haven resident and Enfield native who owns Lopez Lan Logistics, will have a coveted front-row seat for the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour later today.
Lopez, 32, is one of 150 people randomly picked by NASA out of a pool of 4,100 applicants as part of their Tweetup program. Participants get to view the launch from the closest-possible vantage point — about three miles away from the pad. And Lopez almost missed the acceptance email.
“I actually didn’t get the first message,” he said. “I got the one that said, ‘If you don’t respond by today we’re going to give up your spot.’ So I responded to that one right away!”
Lopez grew up in Enfield and began his love of space in the public school system.
He said he recalls frequent space suit demonstrations by Hamilton Sundstrand employees during his time at the Nathan Hale Elementary School. When he moved on to the Enrico Fermi High School, he took advantage of the school’s planetarium — a program that was eliminated through budget cuts a few years ago.
While Tweetup participants are provided with a tent and Internet access while on NASA property, they are responsible for all of their travel and lodging expenses. Tweetup participants were notified of their selection only last month, but they immediately made contact with each other to share expenses.
Lopez is sharing a rental house (they call it Endeavour) with eight other participants, some of whom came from as far away as Australia and England.
“[They are] wonderful people to stay with. We all share the same interest,” he said “When we wake up in the morning everybody’s on their laptops, checking out what’s going on with the shuttle launch.”
Friday’s launch is the first one Lopez has attended. The highlight of his trip so far was meeting Astronaut Clay Anderson, who flew on the International Space Station in 2007 and Space Shuttle Atlantis last year.
“Wonderful person, very very friendly,” Lopez said of Anderson. “He’s a professional but he likes to have fun. You can tell.”
To follow Lopez’s adventure head over to his Twitter account for frequent updates.