Doc and I had flown in to Houston to visit an old friend, Pirooz, and we had one day to spend there before moving on to San Antonio where we were to attend a history conference. I knew the space center was there. I’d always wanted to see it. But their website wasn’t encouraging. Full of lovely photos, I found the website impossible to get a grasp on just what there is to see and do there and how long it would take us. The one line descriptions of each category were no help. Nevertheless, I decided we would go and take things as they came along.
Our friend was tied up with work for the day so Doc and I were on our own until dinner time. We invited his 14 year old son , Michah, and cousin, Sadaf, to join us.
From Iran, Sadaf had only been in the country for four weeks and, as far as I could tell, had yet to do any sightseeing. Without a car she was stuck at home every day while Pirooz went off to work. I found her remarkably easy to communicate with despite her less than perfect understanding of the English language. If I said something she didn’t understand, I simply reworded it. She sometimes used a dictionary to find the words she needed to say. In this way, we managed to have nice conversations.
Admission for four adults was $90. If you buy your tickets on-line you can save $5 a head. If, like us, you forget to do that, you’ll have to pay the full fare.
We started with a 90 minute tram tour that takes you to many behind the scenes locations around the Johnson Space Center. The locations appear to vary from day to day. Our first stop was the mission control building. We sat in the seats where families and other officials sat during the space missions of the 1960’s through the 90’s. Overlooking the mission control room the seats would have given watchers a complete view of what was going on. Doc and I mentioned at the same time that the thing that struck us the most was how small the mission control room was. Watching it on TV gave the impression that this was a big room. It isn’t. It’s very small and compact with rows of consoles set close together which would have given mission control workers barely enough room to squeeze past one another.
Stop #2 was the Mock Up Center. This is definitely not a smaller than expected space! It is a huge warehouse filled with complete, life size duplicates of space capsules and every other piece of space equipment there is. Astronauts use this facility for training.
From there we went to Rocket Park and the Saturn V facility. As we entered the building I had to laugh when I heard Sadaf gasp at the sight of the rocket lying on its side. All of the literature about the Saturn V says that you can’t imagine how big it is without seeing it for yourself. They’re not kidding. I never imagined that anything man-made could be so HUGE. The Saturn V was breathtaking.
The tram returned us to the main building where we had burgers, hot dogs, and chicken fingers in the food court. As we ate, we talked more with Sadaf. Pirooz’ cousin had “won the immigration lottery” and had entered the US just four weeks ago. She has been living with Pirooz, waiting for paperwork to come so that she can get a driver’s license, a job, and go back to school. Although happy to be here, it has been difficult for her adjusting to a new country and a new way of life. We talked about her home in Tehran and her desire to stay here.
Our afternoon was spent at an International Space Station Briefing, watching a couple of the available movies, and visiting the Starship Gallery. This is one thing that is, as the brochure indicates, “a must-see.” After leaving the Starship theater we entered the museum which includes Mercury, Gemini, Apollo capsules and more. You can get a look at Skylab and touch both a moon rock and a Mars rock. The displays were well done with capsules hanging from a star-studded ceiling as if they would float off into space at any moment. Our last stop was a look at the International Space Station display which has a fabulous model of the laboratory and a great film showing shots of the earth from space.