Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Spacey Saturday(06/24/06)

For a change, all went according to schedule, the rain God decided to bear with us too, we (my roomie; team-mate, his friend and myself) rented out a car for our visit to the Space Center and Kemah beach. A teeny weenie bit of a delay turned out to my advantage as I could catch Germany’s two goals against Sweden and they didn’t score anymore after that, so didn’t really miss much.

Back to our jaunt, it's about a two hour journey, with all the induced delays, so we were right on time for lunch which we had at an Indian restaurant close to NASA, buffet style, but too spicy for my liking. All the camera’s were loaded and we reached the Johnson Space Center, the Manned Spacecraft Center was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973. He during his tenure as President and VP supported the space program as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences. It was during this reign that the decision to land a man on the moon was made.

Since we had already booked our tickets online, we went right in. My first thought on entry was ‘Oh my God, we’ve come to the wrong place', lottsa kid rides around the entrance, lots of terminals with different astronaut themed games and stuff. Kids can basically have a good time here.

We sat through a demonstration on ‘Feel of space’; it was a demo of a day in the life of an astronaut/cosmonaut on the International space station (ISS). Its almost hilarious, I said almost … the mundane tasks such as eating or relieving oneself, seem, well, extraordinary.

ISS is pretty significant but of course, there’s a miniature model, along with a larger more detailed model suspended from the ceiling, you can also take a virtual tour of the ISS, and you don’t even have to worry about the laws of gravity!

The walls and ceilings are pretty much covered with dials, medallions and various other exhibits and a handful of astronauts suspended in air.

The astronaut gallery houses a whole lot of spacesuits (ejection suits and flight suits) complete with a detailed listing; the adjacent wall has portraits and crew photos of every US astronaut who has flown in space. There were a couple of paid rides, one was a sort of a Shuttle mock-up, Blast-Off. We also toured a section of a mock-up space ship complete with a hanger for the spacesuits, dials, controls and such stuff.

The tram tour was next; we were in the blue line, waiting endlessly, curving through a maze of rope dividers! The tour was within the gates of the space center, the real place where the people (astronauts too!) work, these are the people involved in all those numerous space missions, must be one exciting life!, this is the ‘Houston’ Neil Armstrong was referring to when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

It was a three stop tour, the first one at the actual mission control room used for the Apollo missions. The tour narration was on a pre-recorded tape, but at the mission control center there was a guide who took us through the history of the MCC and the adjacent blue room which supports ISS.

Stop 2 was the Astronaut Memorial ground, Oak trees planted in honor of all the astronauts who have lost their lives for the space missions. The most recent addition was of seven oaks planted in honor of the crew members of the ill-fated Columbia which included India’s very own Kalpana Chawla, the moment was almost nostalgic, a minute silence was observed for all those souls, at last count it is 40.

Stop 3, Rocket park was an optional stop, a number of people in the group didn’t get off, coz the tram just goes on and we need to wait and get in the next one, the park has a couple of space rockets, engines and then there’s a long building at the corner of the park, we almost didn’t go in there…it was amazing….a Saturn V rocket sitting horizontally inside and boy was it huge, it stands almost 36 stories tall. Looked up some material, this is one of only three extant Saturn V’s..used to launch the apollo spacecraft, made up entirely of rocket stages intended for flight. It’s so huge that they built the building around it instead of moving it and is currently undergoing restoration, due to the damage caused by the weather.

That's about it, sadly we missed a few exhibits, significantly the Starship Gallery which features the largest collection of moon-rocks, it was buried in one corner, somehow the setting of the place is a little haphazard, quite easy to miss shows.

A suggestion, don't forget to pick up the 'Map & Show Schedule' at the entrance!
All said, a must-visit if you are in Houston, Kemah in the next post!
Some problem with uploading pics, will do that soon.

1 comment:

Vogon Interpreter!! said...

cheerio.. nowi know what i ahve to do when i get there!!