Outer Space on $100 a day

Tuesday 18 April 2006, 9:54 pm

Tuesday, April 18

Rocket Park at Space Center in Houston
Today we visited Space Center Houston. This is not the same as the Johnson Space Center, but its web site describes it as "the Official Visitors Center of NASA's Johnson Space Center." We discovered that SCH and JSC are not the same thing when we turned into the wrong parking lot, and security guards had to scuttle us away. (Us and a long line of others.)

There is a tram ride that you can take through JSC, and it includes an inside view of the Mission Control room that was used from 1965-1995, a stop at the grove of trees that memorializes the crews of the Challenger and the Columbia, and a stop at Rocket Park, which includes two upright rockets that were designed for the Mercury and Apollo programs, I think. Not quite yet ready for exhibition, but visible through a dirty window, was a large Saturn V rocket that is being restored. This rocket had been scheduled for use on the scuttled Apollo 18 project.

On the Tram Ride
Space Center Houston also includes lots of hands-on activities for the kids, including a neat section with sensors of various types (heat, motion, wind, sound, etc.) that demonstrate how a robot might be given senses. There were also activities like jungle gyms and large helical slides to keep the littlest tykes busy.

We got to see actual Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules, and full-size mockups of the Shuttle bridge and Skylab. There were also capsule stories of each of the missions through Apollo 17.

I bought a patch from the Mercury 9 mission. This was a little before my time, but I never knew that each Mercury mission had the number 7 associated with it, as in "Friendship 7" and so on. I bought this particular patch because it says "Faith 7" on it, and apparently the pilot was a Christian.

After finishing up at the Space Center, we ran around Friendswood trying to find the last open UPS Store so we could send some packages home, but we got lost and the packages will have to wait until Wednesday. Not wanting to get back into the Houston traffic snarl, we headed out to the coast to leave town trhough the La Porte area. When we made a wrong turn there, we found the Runway Grill. We hoped to find the great Texas steak there, but I was a little disappointed. We both ordered the same thing, rib eye medium with baked potato, but while Mary's was a bright pink, mine had no pink at all. Mary really enjoyed hers, but we both agreed this was not something to send someone out of their way for.

On down the I-10 toward Louisiana, we stopped in Orange, which turns out to be the last city before you cross the river away from Texas. Our Ramada was supposed to have WiFi but I only got it to work just once for a few seconds. Sigh.