Sunday, 9 February 2014

Houston TX (Day 2)

These big cities are almost impossible to see in a few days. I really feel like we just skim the outside but unless you are staying in the downtown core I am not sure how you get to see "anything".

Luckily for us, Doug had lined up those tickets for Johnson Space Centre for today. Can only say A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!! There is so much information about NASA's space program at every turn, we figure you would have to go there 100 times and you still would not remember even half of it!! Nonetheless, it was a great day. The information you receive says if possible, try and allow a whole day to view everything. They were right! We were there for 7 hours. Follow us along.....hope you wore your comfy shoes though!!


Wanna race??
So, naturally when you go to enter the museum part, they search your handbags. Question asked: "Any pepper spray, knives or stun guns"....."Oh my, but yes, I have all 3, is that a problem???" Then you walk into a really big area which branches out in all directions. Some kids attractions, the few obligatory gift shops, food eatery area (including Starbucks...) and some very nice displays. We had a guide map that showed us where everything was.


Just a little glimpse of the inside area....
You can just go right through this area straight to where the trams are. There are 2 different trams you can take. The red route takes you to the astronaut training facility and the building that houses the real Saturn V facility and the red route takes you to the real Mission Control. We took the red one first. And here we go.....hang on!! Please keep arms and legs inside!! What this tram does is takes you away from all the displays at the museum and takes you onto the real Johnson Space Centre property. All these area you are in are now the real and proper NASA training areas. Pretty cool. There is no extra charge for anything else (oh, besides the little simulator in the museum that spins you around like a thanks but it does cost $4 each. Pretty cheesy after paying a lot to get in in the first place!)  

 Takes about 5-6 minutes to get to the first stop....Astronaut Training Facility.

Going past the Christopher Craft Jr. Mission Control Building....

Now, this building is 8 stories high and I don't know how long. You will get the idea by looking at the pictures. This is where the actual astronauts do their training. What you see in the above picture and the ones below are the various training modules for the International Space Station. I don't know about you all, but I pretty much never give the space program much thought. But after seeing this facility, we see it is alive and very much well. I always wondered how they got all the parts up to the space station. Well, duh....all those times that the American and Russian space shuttles went up there they were taking parts, modules, supplies and various other "payloads". All the parts for the ISS were actually constructed in many various parts of the world (USA, Russia, Canada, Japan, England Germany to name a few) and were never assembled together until they were up in space!! How is that for co-operation of different countries. Many smart people I would say!!  

So, in the various modules, many different training aspects will take place. Everything from
how to run the toilets and kitchens to learning how to use the Canadarm (thanks Canada!!) and learning to work with no gravity by working on a "frictionless floor". This big floor teaches them how to push and manoeuver super heavy things around. 
This picture is for Danna and Diane. See the sewing machine on the little green table
on the bottom left of the picture - you two can apply at NASA for jobs!!!

This funny little green capsule is what (....believe it or not) brings all the astronauts back to earth after their 6 month stint is over in the ISS. It is Russian made and actually, after many stages of re-entry, floats down into a field in Russia with a parachute for landing. There are specially designed seats for each astronaut because they said that it hits the ground at about 50 mph. Seems a bit rudimentary but that's how they do it.

 Canadarm (bigger here on Earth than in space)
Guess he had to stay after school.....

"Robonaut" This is a robot that is been used now in training. It is so precise, it
can text on a cell phone without ever making an error - that is how accurate it is!
Funny, because it looks pretty rudimentary, doesn't it?

This is the beginning of NASA's  new space program. This is called the Orion and this is a mock up of the capsule. This part of the NASA program is hoping to be ready
to send astronauts up into space to be in and around on MARS!!!!
They are hoping for somewhere around 2030-2040.
This building was very cool. Obviously, I have forgotten more than I can ever remember, but it was super cool to know that if you were here during the week, the real astronauts are walking around in there, practicing!! There is also a huge building that they train underwater in. It is a very close comparable to a weight-less" environment. but we were not allowed to see that.
This is actually the back of the training building....
After this the tram took us over to the facility that houses a Saturn V rocket. Oh my goodness - that was amazing too. To see it in it's entirety. It was built for one of the last Apollo programs and they cut the space program so it never went up. Instead, it has been housed as a display piece, but it is a full working rocket. Check these out:

Some of the other displays outside the building. This is
not the Saturn V - it is inside the building.

Wow - that is one huge engine.....

No, I am not sure who this dude was that just couldn't wait one
second to get "his" picture. I hope we are right in the middle of it!!
Anyway, remember that one engine in the above photo, well here there are
5 of them for the first initial launch phase.

You can hardly see the end of the building from here!

All along the wall there are panels for each of the Apollo missions, I believe
there were 16 or 17 of them. Each one is done really well, showing the crew and the
highlights. This one shows Mission Control and Gene Kranz, the moment that Apollo 13 landed safely back on Earth and the astronauts (no, not Tom Hanks)
were out of the capsule and were alive!!!
And haven't we all heard this before.....


That is an Apollo capsule that would have gone
up too if the program had not been cancelled.

I believe this portion was a real capsule that would have been used 
for the mission if the program had not been cancelled.

Apollo 11 - First men on the Moon!!

The blue tram ride stopped at Mission Control. Yes, this is the “real” Mission Control. What we saw was a new, renovated control room that was not currently (today) in use. It was apparently going to be used  and I believe she told us for the Orion missions. But Doug & I compared notes later and thought it was a bit strange because they told us that Orion would be quite a ways in the future. Oh well….anyway, the live TV feed showed one of the current crew members in the International Space Station actually doing maintenance on the bathroom . See, even though you are a highly skilled astronaut, the bathroom still needs cleaning and fixing and there is no one else but those on board to do it!


That entire wall shows every space mission - who knew there were so many!!
 After we got back from this tour we took in several of the 30 minute presentations about what was happening currently at NASA, living in space, etc. etc.  The other cool thing was walking around looking at all the displays and going inside a mock-up of a Space Shuttle cockpit and seeing some of the areas like where they store food. Check these out:

Even in space, you still got go!!

Storage drawers for pretty much everything....

We thought it funny that you would have to remind the astronauts
where the lock was on this highly complex craft!!!

Dinner is served!!

 Touching a moon rock!! 

One of the presentations we enjoyed was about the lunar rovers. The current rover, Curiosity, is up on Mars now collecting samples. The first two were scheduled to only work for about 3 months each and one of them worked for nearly 10 years and the other for about 7 years. They were both powered by solar panels!
Doug with a model of Curiosity....
This final picture is of a grove of trees. which you can’t get off the tram and just go and walk around. They are dedicated to the astronauts we have been lost in the line of duty. Apollo 1 (crew of 3), the Challenger disaster of Jan 1986 (crew of 7) and the Columbia re-entry disaster in Feb of 2003 (crew of 7) were all represented. That's 17 trees in all. It is very moving, even if it was from a distance. “Failure is not an option” in the NASA program….
By the time 5:30 pm rolled around, we felt like our brains were ready to implode with information!! Wow – what a day it was. Here are some of our favourite stats:
The ISS travels at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour (that is 5 miles per second!)
The crew on board the ISS witnesses a sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes 
The Canadarm used in space can manoeuver pay loads of up to 3,293 kls (7,260 lbs) However, the arm motors are unable to lift it's own weight when on
Earth because of gravity here.... 
You cannot “hear” if you are outside in space unless you are touching an object.
For example if they pound on something outside the ISS, they
cannot hear it unless they are holding on to it.
(Other than your connection to the space station via voice link) 
All water on board the ISS is recycled – yes that means you actually drink
pee after it has been filtered! 
The next space program with the Orion will not actually be going into space for approximately 25-35 years so young kids and kids not even born yet will be in command of those missions!! 
What a great day that was. If you are ever in Houston, it is definitely worth a look but, do allow yourself the whole day to take it all in! Hope you all enjoyed the pictures. Sorry, you know me, I cannot figure out how to put in fewer pictures and still give you all a sense of what we saw!! 
…now, you can take off your sneakers and relax! Wait til you see what we are doing tomorrow!! 
Thought for the Day: Comes from one of the astronauts:
“We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is we discovered was the Earth…William A. Anders


  1. Intersting stuff! Thanks, great post.

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