What are people saying about NASA?

I combed the magical twitter-sphere using a web scraping app in order to find a data set of tweets to see if I could find a an event that they all shared when tweeting to the @NASA twitter handle. But first I needed to find the key to unlocking my treasure trove of data. Which was first making sense of the 10,000 tweets I scraped from twitters API(application program interface).

I wanted to have an unfiltered look and unbiased opinion towards what the twitterites were posting during the week of March 23-30, 2016. For only a weeks worth of Data, this resulted in an enormous amount of twitter junk, tracking numbers, garbage data, and a long journey of shoveling all the crap data aside. As upleasant as it was. The process was still necessary in order to get to the good meaningful data. Which is the question I wanted answered. What are Nasa's follower's talking about?

I found out what people were tweeting, but I still didn't know what they were talking about. I needed to narrow down their word frequency to figure out what topics were coming up the most. Was it a specific event? A specific person, an Astronaut maybe? Or was it something political? I was able to piece together a story by merely running all of the tweets through a frequency counter using a few lines of code.

I took every word used and applied a total number to them. However, it wasn't just as simple as that, as I mentioned before, there was a lot of garabage data that I didn't need. Now, imagine a mountain of over 10,000 lines of text that you need to comb through just to find maybe 30-40 usable words. I got to work. I cut out all of the words that were in unnecessary columns, and used an excel filter to get rid of all the online tags, location tags, or any arbitrary words in the english language that wouldn't tell me much. Eventually, this left me with the graph you see below.

Word Cloud

created at

I was able to narrow all of the Chatter down to a single event by plugging all of the key words into google to see what stuck. Some words may look like non-sense, but in reality they were very important. For example, "zhq9zqp94u" may look like Dr. Seuss sneezed numbers and letters on your screen, but it's actually an image tag of the event that most of Nasa's followers were talking about at the time this data was collected. There were quite a few words that narrowed down my search. NASA is a big organization. They have their hands in a lot of cookie jars, so I needed more than just an image tag to reaffirm my data.

I broke down each word and assessed whether it was arbitrary or an important variable. My results came back with a positive correllation between the amount a word was tweeted to what event was blowing up NASA's twitter feed.

Jeff Williams is an Astronaut who is currently serving his mission in orbit aboard the International Space Station. While aboard the space station some Astronaut's like to dabble in photography. Some for research and some for pleasure. Astronaut Williams is a dabbler. His photography can be03 used for research, but for the most part he takes advantage of his time up in space to snap as many pictures as he can. His most notable being the one he took over Australia during the ISS's flyover. Which is what my Twitter scraping data picked up.

This data set lead me to an even greater event. While NASA does some great work. They can't do every thing. So they contract some of their projects and launches to private contractors such as SpaceX.

SpaceX Lands Rocket Back On Earth.

On Friday, April 8, 2016, SpaceX launched their two stage-to-orbit launch vehicle, Falcon 9. It's name comes from its use of nine engines which are fully designed and manufactured by SpaceX. This system is unique in that it is designed to be fully reusable for future missions. Whereas most rockets are designed to be discarded after their launch. The falcon series is the beginning of a new era in rocket development. This system, when successful, greatly reduces the cost of refueling the International Space Stations provisions and reduces the cost of launching satellites into space.

While they did live broadcast the launch it wasn't enough for me. I needed to see what space enthusiasts such as myself were saying about this monumental day for this company. Elon Musk already revolutionized the electric car and now he plans to do the same thing for space travel.

From my data scraping I gathered mostly positive feedback all the way from the launch through it's successful landing. Even the President Barack Obama chimed in to congratulate Elon Musk and SpaceX for the amazing work they are doing.

As for scraping the data, well, it was more or less the same steps that I took for finding NASA's tweets. I used Twitter's API, but this time I scraped for the past 20,000 tweets that were directed towards the twitter handle @SpaceX. The overall discussion was broad. It bounced from talking about the barge the rocket was landing on to Falcon 9's two day mission to catching up to the ISS on Sunday. However the overall consensus and majority spike in twitter feeds was when SpaceX successfully landed their rocket.

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