Houston, We Have a Problem… Our Visit to the Houston Space Center

Space Center
Last weekend we made the trek from Livingston, TX to Houston.  Our plan was to visit the space center in Houston after a stop at the Apple store.  Unfortunately what we were hoping was going to be a quick in and out visit to the “Genius Bar” to fix a boot up problem with my Mac turned into a five hour ordeal.  No space center for us!  It would have to wait.  This weekend we tried again and the mission was a success.
Those that know me well, know that I am not just a camping fanatic and computer geek.  I am also a science geek.  Space exploration is the best of both combined, so a trip to “Mission Control” was a must do for me while we were in the area.

When we arrived, we were greeted with a surprise.  Now that the shuttle program has been scrapped, they are building a new space shuttle exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center in FL to house the space shuttle Atlantis.  Because of that, they have moved the FL mockup of the space shuttle Explorer to the Houston space center.  The exhibit isn’t done yet, but during construction they have the shuttle mockup parked out in the parking lot.
Space Shuttle!

She looks a little worse for wear, doesn’t she?  I’m sure that they’ll get her spiffed up and ready to shine before they open the exhibit.  From what we could see on the banner announcing the project, the display will feature the mockup atop a 747 in front of the exhibit hall building.  It also looks like visitors will be able to go inside the mockup.  How cool is that!  I feel another visit coming on a couple of years down the road…

Inside they had various exhibits, presentations, movies and even a simulator that would let you experience first hand what it feels like to blast off into space.  I’m not the kind of gal who likes to lose her lunch, especially when I had so recently enjoyed it so much on the way down.  So we skipped the simulators, opting instead to wander around, explore the artifacts from past space missions, listen to the presentations and, of course, take the tram tour, so we could see mission control up close and personal.

We spent about an hour exploring the exhibit hall.  Here are a few photos of what we saw.  We saw what the cockpit of the shuttle looks like…
Shuttle Cockpit

We took a peak through the air lock…
The Airlock...

We saw another kind of ‘Shuttle Craft’…  Ok, so this one is only a set prop from Star Trek, but couldn’t you just imagine a future where this would be leaving shuttle bay two?
Another Shuttle Craft

They had various space suits on display that were used over the years (did you know that it took an astronaut two hours just to put these on?  I hope they skipped the morning coffee before getting suited up…)
Space Suits

We even saw what the biffy in the space shuttle looks like.  Kinda makes you appreciate the facilities in your RV a bit more, doesn’t it?  I told Bruce that we should install those grab bars in ours for those times that I need to use the facilities while we are cruising down the highway at 60 mph.  For some reason, he didn’t agree…
Shuttle biffy

Then it was finally time to take the tram tour…  ALL ABOARD!!!The Tram

Along the way we saw some ‘Space Cows’.  Ok…  so maybe they weren’t really space cows, but they were at the space center, so kind of makes them space cows, right?  I’m not sure why the space center needs cows.  Anyone have any ideas?Space Cows!

 First stop…  The Mission Control Center!
Mission Control

There are several actually Mission Control Centers in the building.  For the tour, they can only show ones that aren’t currently in use.  Since it was the weekend, we got a special treat.  We got to see the control center built for the Orion Spacecraft that is being developed for manned missions to the Moon, to an asteroid, and  eventually to Mars.  They are currently using this mission control for training for that mission.
Mission Control

Looks nice and brand new, doesn’t it?  The first unmanned test flight for the Orion spacecraft is scheduled for sometime this year.  If all goes as scheduled, the first manned missions are expected to take place in 2020.  With the rate that technology moves these days, by that time all of this shiny newness will probably feel as old to us as it does to look at Mission Control from the Apollo days now.  I hope that they have a top notch IT crew to keep the technology up to date.

Next up was the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility.  This is the facility where astronauts currently train for missions on the International Space Station, familiarizing themselves with the layout and controls of the station and working with robotics.  In previous years they also trained in a mockup of the space shuttle, but due to the retirement of that program, that mockup will soon be moved from the facility, making room for new training equipment.  I wonder what they will come up with next?
Space Vehicle Mockup Facility

The last stop on the tour was Rocket Park, where they have several rockets on display outside and a fully restored Saturn V rocket on loan from the Smithsonian inside the building.
Rocket Park

Once the tour was over, it was time to head back to camp.  But first we made a quick stop at the gift shop.  When I saw this t-shirt, the science geek in me just had to have it.

I also scored a freeze dried ‘Astronaut Ice Cream Sandwich’ which I snacked on in the car on the way home.  The texture was a little strange, but it really did look and taste like an ice cream sandwich.  Those astronauts eat well!
Ice cream sandwich

All in all it was an awesome day and something that I would heartily recommend the next time that you are in the Houston area.  It really is ‘Out of this world’!

5 Replies to “Houston, We Have a Problem… Our Visit to the Houston Space Center”

    1. Ummmmm… Get rid of??? Dang! I forgot about that rule. I guess I’ll have to go through my drawers. I’ll find something.

      Miss you too! Hopefully we will be back in your neck of the woods soon.

  1. Dear Science Geek, Has Mr. Happy Camper ever considered the possibility of escaping earth’s atmosphere by launching himself into low earth orbit during a relaxing afternoon of imbibing in his favorite beverage? I calculate that if he weighs .08 tons he would need to reach an escape velocity of 2.4229 miles per second. I am not sure of his overall plan form to allow me to calculate drag coefficients so that is as close as I can calculate.

    My other question is: Do you think his favorite liquid fuel would be sufficient to generate the required thrust?

    1. I don’t think that he has ever considered that possibility, but there are times when I have. Luckily, I don’t think that he would be able to generate the required thrust with liquid fuel alone. If he were to combine that with broccoli or egg salad, there may be a chance that he could. LOL!

  2. My wife and I took our 9 year old granddaughter there last summer. She comes every summer from NY to spend 2 – 3 weeks with us here in Dallas. We spent all day and had a blast (no pun intended). It’s great to see all those pics.

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