Friday, July 28, 2006
Space Center - Houston
On our first full day in Houston for vacation with my sister Emily, we went to Johnson Space Center - NASA. Michael is fascinated with space and we definitely knew he would enjoy it.
When you "Go to NASA", what you are really doing is going to a visitor's center that they have built called "Space Center Houston". It is on the property of Johnson Space Center, but away from any of the "business of NASA"
The first exhibit we visited was a short movie about the United States' space activities - from Mercury through the Space Shuttle. Emma would NOT sit still during this movie. After watching the movie, we walked through an exhibit where they had samples of EACH of the different space capsules - Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. They also had a model of the Moon Rover that was used in the later Apollo missions. We got to walk through a sample of the Skylab.
After giving the kids a good taste of space activities, we took a tram ride around the Johnson Space Center. We had two different "destinations" to choose from and we chose to go see "Historical Mission Control". You drive through what looks like a "normal office park" and pull up to a quite non-descript building. But, after walking into the lobby and up 87 steps - and they make a point to tell you that you will be walking up 87 steps - you walk down the hall and into the observation room of the original Mission Control. This room was used by the media, distinguished guests and family members to watch operations of the numerous space missions starting with Mercury until well into the shuttle missions, when they upgraded to a new modern facility. The walls of mission control were adorned with mission patches signifying all of the missions run from that room, and other souvenirs and momentos of the momentous occasions steered from that room - from the walk on the moon of Apollo 11, the fight to return the crew of Apollo 13, and the last Apollo mission in conjunction with the Soviet space agency. Other activities including the management of Skylab, the early launches of the space shuttle and the loss of the Challenger shuttle and crew. After moving Mission Control to a new facility, they retro fitted the historical Mission Control with the panels used during the Apollo days.
The kids had a great time using the simulators to "Land the Space Shuttle", and we watched MANY crashes during their attempts to land. We also saw a neat presentation of what life is like living on the International Space Station, where the presenter talked about what happens to your body in zero gravity, and demonstrated how the astronauts eat, sleep, and bathe. They also had a neat exhibit showing all the different kinds of suits and uniforms that the astronauts have worn, and had mission photos from EACH of the missions, starting with Mercury through the most recent shuttle mission.
At the front of Space Center, Houston, they have a HUGE play area, and after seeing all that we wanted to see about NASA, we let the kids play in the play area for a while before coming home.
Of course, sight-seeing aside, the kids were almost MORE interested in swimming in Aunt Emily's pool - so after we returned from NASA, we all donned our suits (including Emma) and spent some time in the pool. Emma didn't have the best time right away, and was quite perterbed with me when I dipped her under the water, but she eventually warmed up to the idea of playing in the water, and had a good time.