The NASA Space Center is located half-way between Houston and Galveston in Webster, Texas. It took us a little over 1/2 hour for the drive from the RV park to the Space Center. We were there when they opened at 10:00 a.m. to check in (at the Information Desk) for our badges, and instructions on where to meet for our 10:45 a.m. tour.
Before the tour, we spent time in the museum learning about the U.S. space program from Mercury, Galileo and Apollo missions to Skylab and the International Space Station (ISS).
|At entrance to Space Center|
|Spacecraft on display in the museum|
|The first patch designed by Alan Shephard|
|"The Eagle has landed."|
Below is the vault where they keep rocks and dirt from the moon.
|Diorama of a moon walk with a lunar rover.|
As we waited for our tour guide, we watched hundreds of children go by us to get on the trams. Seems childrens' summer camps include a visit to Space Center. Boy am I glad we're on a Level 9 Tour!
|Notice all the kids in green shirts?!|
|Our ride, a nice, air-conditioned chariot to the stars.|
|Ooooh, "Offical Vehicle." Starting to feel special.|
Our first stop was off NASA property at the Neutral Bouyancy Laboratory (NBL) where astronauts are trained to deal with weightlessness in earth's closest approximation: a swimming pool. But not just any swimming pool! This pool is 40' 6" deep, 202 feet long, 102 feet across, and holds 6.2 million gallons of water. The NBL contains a full-size mock-ups of the International Space Station modules and payloads. In the pool astronauts perform simulated space walk tasks to help train them for missions in space.
The NBL is where the movie "Armageddon" filmed some of their scenes.
|Neutral Bouyancy Lab|
|Looking into the pool at the full-size mock-up of the ISS.|
|Platform to lower astronauts into NBL pool.|
|Flags of countries participating in the ISS hang in the NBL.|
That was our first tour stop and we were already thoroughly impressed. What more is in store?
Next stop? Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility. Here is where workers assemble full-size mock-ups of vehicles, transports, and components of the space station.
|Components of the ISS|
|Vehicles to use on Mars for exploring the planet's surface. |
They can hook up to each other for more space.
Elon Musk, the inventor of the Tesla car, is now involved in space transportation. SpaceX, Musk's space company, is one of three private contractors bidding to shuttle supplies to the ISS. His brand is Dragon.
|Dragon brand, SpaceX, Elon Musk's company|
|Me in the space shuttle training cockpit|
|Bob in space shuttle training cockpit|
|Pilot and co-pilot. LOL.|
After lunch, we were whisked off to meet up with another Level 9 Tour at Mission Control Center. Our meet-up location was the viewing room for Mission Control for the International Space Station. Mission Control is manned 24/7/365.
A little background information: The Russians had technology to build the space station because of their experience with Mir. The U.S. brought the "trucks" to haul space station components in the form of the space shuttle program. Different pods were built for different purposes by different counties, yet all of the pods fit together flawlessly when they were installed in space. Truly international cooperation.
|Mission Control for International Space Station|
|Mission Control Flight Director|
|Tracking the space station and satellites|
|We got to goof around in the old Mission Control.|
|The original Mission Control.|
|Saturn V building - yes, this thing is huge!|
|Wildlife sighting outside Saturn V building.|
|Saturn V rocket|
|Bob standing between Stage 2 and Stage 3|
|Saturn V F-1 engines|
|How they move these behemoths around|
Our guided tour was coming to an end. Throughout the tour, our group kept asking our guide what his position was at NASA. He obviously was pretty high up in the chain of command and kept taking phone calls throughout the day. He didn't really answer us until the end of the day when he brought out a book he wrote. If we had been paying attention in our tour waiting area at the beginning of the day we would have known who he was. Here's an advertisement for his book that was right above our heads as we waited.
Our tour guide was David Cisco, Apollo Alumni, Lunar Module Spacecraft Technician. At the end of the tour he was selling and autographing his book for those of us on the tour.
|Our tour guide, excellent|
After the tour, we spent a little more time in the Space Center.
|Mock up of a lunar lander.|
|This space suit looks like an alien took over.|
After our long day at the Space Center, we went back to Galveston and explored a little. We drove to Galveston Island State Park (very basic sites - close together with no landscaping, but very close to the beach!) and along the seawall.
It had been a long time since lunch, so we scoped out a place for dinner. First we thought we'd go to Gaido's (a fish restaurant in business for 100 years). The menu was a bit steep for our budget and we didn't feel like we were dressed well enough to enter.
Luckily, next door is Nick's Kitchen and Beach Bar. The evening was balmy so we opted to sit outside on the covered patio for a nice view of the Gulf across the street.
All for tonight. Travel Bug spaced out.