Hello! Over the last month or so I and a few of the other interns have been able to experience some of the big attraction around Houston. Now by big attractions I am speaking mainly about NASA’s amazing Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Space Center Houston.
I’m surprised I didn’t get to the Space Center sooner but the 4 or 5 miles walk in the Houston heat was a little…erm…bit of a struggle. We did finally make the trip.
We started off in the Destiny Theater, and what a way to start the day with a 15 minute movie summarising the formation of NASA and the various missions spanning its history up until now. It was definitely a motivational movie incorporating all the famous presidential speeches from the space race. The theater had the actual podium JFK used for his speech to kick-off the space race too. The movie led on into an area (the Starship Gallery) of the Space Center where most of the history mentioned was on display. Here you can see up close numerous amazing artifacts that trace the history of NASA’s space flight, including the Apollo 17 Command module, the Lunar Rover Vehicle trainer (astronauts used this to train for Apollo 15-17) and YES a Moon rock you can actually touch (without gloves). Inside the Lunar vault you can see how the Moon rocks are stored and studied with a replica of the Lunar curatorial labs.
There are also a few tram tours that take you around JSC, past all the various buildings including the house of the Orion (America’s new spacecraft for human exploration). Of course we went on both. One was to the famous historic mission control, which was in control for the entire Apollo missions; it looked exactly how it should from all the movies. Tom Hanks (the actor who played Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 ) spent a lot of time researching in there and the set used in the Apollo 13 movie was an exact replica…down to the nuts and bolts. We had a great talk there from our host. It’s amazing to think the talented people of mission control back then had no computers/laptops, internet or even calculator like we do today!! Instead the Apollo missions had no more than 5 Mb of data (yeah that’s a couple of photo’s on you memory card) and a ‘ruler’ for calculations.
If mission control wasn’t enough, there was more! The tours also took us round the Vehicle Mock-up facility (also known as Building 9). The room is massive, with mock-ups of the International Space Station parts and the new Orion (which we were especially delighted to see). Robots and some amazing looking rovers were also present. Cutting edge stuff and it was great to see it up close.
Last but certainly not least was a stop at Rocket Park, home of the Saturn V. I’ve been waiting to see this forever. I knew it was ‘big’ but you really have to see it to believe it. ‘Big’ just doesn’t cover it. Just looking at the 5 huge propellers on the back of the rocket, you can feel the sheer power it must have had. Great experience!!
The Space Center also topped the day off with a selection of wildlife they had in the main area: from venomous snakes and spiders bigger than your face too baby-ish alligators.
If you’re ever in the area or near one of the space center I’d recommend tenfold. You just don’t get the same experience looking at pictures, check it out and see the enormity of what space exploration has achieved not just for science but for engineering and technology too.