Saturday, 20 December 2014

DAY 10 - Houston, We Have A Problem

Full points to Marion (or should I say, John) for guessing that the bucket list item that got ticked off today was a visit to Space Centre Houston (correctly known as the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Centre).

The Space Centre Houston is situated on the south east of Houston and around 30 minutes drive from the hotel. It is NASA's centre for human space flight activities. It isn't a launch site, rather it's where the space flights are coordinated from. On arrival at the Space Centre, you can't help to be wowed by the site of Space Shuttle Independence (actually it's a Shuttle mock-up) sitting atop NASA's Boeing B747-SCA (stands for Shuttle Carrying Aircraft) N905NA. This actual aircraft was used for the Space Shuttle drop tests in the late 1970s in which the Shuttle was literally dropped from the aircraft and glided back to a runway.

Note the large fins that stabilise the aircraft

Note the label on the attachment point: "Attach Orbiter Here - Note: Black Side Down"...Who says Engineers aren't funny?
The Space Centre has a bunch of exhibits inside, though certainly not as many as the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida which we visited back in 2009. It is well laid out with lots of stuff to keep the interest level high.

A full-scale replica Lunar Module

This is a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) later in this blog, compare the size of this to the mighty Saturn V's F-1 Engine

This is a replica of one of the wheels of the Lunar Rovers which were used on Apollo Missions 15, 16 and 17

A full-scale model of the Mars Rover
The cockpit of the Space Shuttle
The Space Centre also offers two separate tours, the red and blue tours which visit the Mission Control Building, Astronaut Training Facility and the Rocket Park. We elected to do the Red tour, taking in the Astronaut Training Facility and the Rocket Park. The Astronaut Training Facility is a large building which houses all manner of simulators and equipment, from a Space Shuttle, to a Soyuz, International Space Station and even some Rovers.

Schuyler in-between photographs

This is how these Blogs are made ;)
Oh, I forgot to mention, it was freezing cold...relatively speaking of course, Don
Next was the Rocket Park. There's not too much there, but what is there is very interesting. In particular there is Little Boy 2, which was a testing rocket for the Apollo Program.

Your's truly
Then there's a Mercury Redstone rocket which was the vehicle type that took the first American into Space (that's Alan Shepherd who flew into space on 05 May 1961). I have a model of this rocket at home, so it's great to see one for real.

It looks like it needs some TLC

They also have the mighty F-1 Engine, five of which were used to raise the mighty Saturn V off the ground. The 5m tall, 3.6m diameter F-1 Engine is the largest, highest thrust single-chamber, single-nozzle liquid fuel engine flown and together with its four other siblings delivered 7.5 million pounds of thrust and burnt 15 tonnes of Kerosene and Oxygen per second.

As I said earlier, compare this with the size of the Space Shuttle Main Engine
Of course, this engine is nothing without a vehicle to lift and that vehicle (the monstrous 363'/110m tall Saturn V) was one of the items that I needed to see to tick off of my bucket list. The display is phenomenal and is housed in a purpose-built building after sitting outside for a number of years. This Saturn V was made from various parts that were made in support of the cancelled Apollos 18, 19 and 20. The vehicle itself is broken into its various stages and played  on its side. It's hard to appreciate just how huge this beast is. Here she is:

I tried using the GoPro Camera for the next few shots.

With this item now officially ticked off, the only thing left to do was to work out what to purchase in the Gift Shop.

So many choices...
We then finished up at Space Centre Houston and headed back to our Hotel...but only for a short while as we then had to head off to Toyota Stadium to watch the NBL team Houston Rockets take on the Atlanta Hawks. Unfortunately the home team lost, but it was a close game. The boys got to see their Basketball heroes and actually managed to get very close before the start of the game. The venue was fantastic and the atmosphere also great.

Before the game

Kyle trying to capture a shot of one of the Hawks players

The Houston Rockets

The stadium after the game from the carpark
Well that's all for today. In terms of the title "Houston, we have a problem"; the problem was fitting so much into one day...whew!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the Space Centre Houston has Deer wandering around its grounds. It is estimated that there is a population of between 150-174 Deer on the grounds. They probably thrive here because of the protection offered by an 8' fence surrounding the complex.

I have also included a Saturn V/F1 Engine graphic below: