Jan 29, 2018

Visiting Houston Space Center

As a teenager I was intrigued with the concept of travel to the moon and beyond. What was once science fiction is now a reality.  Americans have walked on the moon and will, most likely, walk on Mars then travel beyond. John and I visited the Houston Space Center where were several informative video presentations.

Carl Sagan said, “Exploration is in our nature.  We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean.  We are ready to set sail for the stars.”  Well, maybe not the stars quite yet.  What seemed amazing in the 1960s has now become routine.  One of the presentations was “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo.” The goal of the Apollo program was to land Americans on the moon and return them safely which it did on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon and uttered the
immortal words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” It is a moment that most people – worldwide – remember where they were.  We were camping in Canada.  Canadians congratulated us as if we had been personally responsible. The video vividly shows the stress the people of Mission Control were under even when everything goes smoothly. The scenes of the people of Mission Control during the Apollo 13, Challenger, and Columbia missions were heart wrenching even though the astronauts of Apollo 13 returned safely. I was surprised to learn that there has been at least one person orbiting the earth every day for the past 17 years. 

Other videos, talks, and displays dealt with the Orion Mars Mission. Work is on schedule for the first manned Mars Mission which will send astronauts to Mars. Astronauts will orbit the planet and return to Earth in the 2030s. Walking on Mars may take longer. Scientists are studying ways to build human habitats on Mars. Someone actually suggested that people make a one-way trip to Mars where they would live in the habitats until the problem of returning to Earth has been solved. 
Some people have actually volunteered but the plan is not taken seriously. Work is progressing on the Orion launch/splash down delivery vehicle and on a Deep Space Habitat module that will provide additional living space for the 16-month trip. And, we think 24 hours of flying to get to Thailand is a long trip! Watch out Superman.  You have serious competition. Orion will return to Earth at a speed of about 25,000 mph – more than 35 times faster than a speeding bullet. 

The Houston Space Center is 25 miles from Houston.  It is about halfway between Galveston, where we were staying, and Houston our last stop before heading to New York so we took Uber taxi to Seabrook, just a few miles from the Space Center and stayed at Springhill Suites for a few days. It was a good decision because the day we had planned to visit the Space Center it was closed due to the cold weather –
20s. They reopened next day the next day noon but the tram rides were suspended… too cold.  It was the first time we had stayed at a Springhill Suites – it was reasonable and while they didn’t have a restaurant they did have a bar! People planning to visit the Space Center should plan on spending the day.  Besides the video presentations, there are simulated rides, and exhibits galore.