We have completed our southern circuit, returning to Houston to fly home. When I hear ‘Houston’, the first thing I think of is the famous words, “Houston, we’ve had a problem” (often erroneously quoted). Since we are already here, visiting the Houston Space Center became part of our itinerary, our last activity before escaping this heat that we have encountered over the past three weeks. The Houston Space Center is a leading science and space exploration center whose mission is to “fuel the STEM pathway and be a gateway for space exploration, science and engineering learning and innovation.” Museum exhibits focus on the history and future of space exploration, the International Space Station, Mars, and the equipment used to get people and products into space. It is fascinating for those who like to press buttons and those who prefer to read.
There are two free tram tour options that you can sign up for upon arrival. We chose the rocket park tour, where one of only three remaining Saturn V rockets are on display. It is impressive to walk along side this rocket, gaining understanding regarding how much fuel it takes to get enough energy to send people out of Earth’s atmosphere. The seven foot bronze statue on display depicts the moment when Apollo 13 astronauts safely landed back onto Earth after five days of uncertainty regarding their survival.
Back from our tram tour, Independence Plaza next to the museum has two large displays, Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket and a shuttle aircraft carrier. Falcon 9 is the first reusable rocket in history. Eric and A1 are touching stabilizers which helped with landing the rocket that we saw light up the sky over Oceanside one evening when we were out for a walk.
In Independence Plaza, visitors can explore inside a replica of the shuttle Independence, the only shuttle mounted on an aircraft carrier that the public can go inside. It is mounted on top of the original and historic NASA 905 shuttle aircraft carrier. Prior to NASA acquiring this aircraft it served as a commercial jet for American Airlines. Boeing had to make modifications so that it could transport shuttle orbiters. By the end of its career, NASA 905 carried shuttle orbiters 223 times, logging over 11,000 flight hours in a 42 year period.
The Wright Brothers first flight was in 1903. A little over one hundred years later scientists are transporting people on the moon, landing rockets, and using planes to carry other planes. Science advances like a rocket ship accelerates.