The Final Frontier – Exploring NASA in Houston

For our perfect New Orleans/Houston getaway, we knew that we wanted to see NASA. It’s been Brit’s dream to visit real life NASA for far longer than I’ve even known her. As a fellow space enthusiast I was only too happy to help make her dream happen.

Here’s what we got up to in Houston!

Since our main goal was to see NASA, we made sure to head there first with our one full day in Houston. After a tumultuous evening arrival at our hotel, we were up bright and early and ready to seize the day.

Our first stop in the museum portion of the building took us to the Destiny lab, a functionally rotating real life replica which simulates weightlessness in science experiments. It was tough to capture just how the replica rotated, but essentially you were on a narrow platform and it spun slowly around you, imitating the weightless experience you’d have in real life. It threw me off a little bit but I’m proud to say I managed to not get sick.

Our next experience at NASA was to take part on one of their tours. We had the choice to do one which you got to see and experience how astronauts trained, but both Brit and I were more fascinated by the behind the scenes look into Mission Control. We got to see the way it used to look in the past – see picture above – and how it looks present-day – see pictures below.

Though the room we saw is not the main functioning room, it was previously used, and still remains as a back up room in case of emergency requirement. We got to learn what the specific roles are in control of. For instance, ETHOS is the inside environment, while SPARTAN is the solar panel control. Arguably the most coveted position is CAPCOM, which is a former astronaut who is in charge of talking to those inside. That was particularly interesting to me, as it means they would know what the current astronauts were going through.

We also learned about the ISS itself. For instance, it moves so fast that if it were a plane, you could go from Houston to Paris in 17 minutes. Talk about a bit of gravitational whiplash.

Our tour continued by showing us rockets, starting with Little Joe II and Mercury-Redstone, and culminating in the Saturn V, which has been on display since 1977. This rocket in particular is one of three surviving rockets which were operational during Apollo’s moon missions. The sheer size and scale of the rocket was mind-boggling.

Along the wall of the building were boards with information about each Apollo mission, complete with pictures of and quotes by the astronauts, and information regarding their missions.

Back inside when the tour had ended, we made our way through another branch and out into Independence Plaza, where you are able to board and explore a rocket on a plane.

We couldn’t help but be a little excited at the display of Canada’s space contribution.

We were also excited to see the badge for Roberta Bondar, an astronaut from our hometown. All in all it was a fascinating day and I highly recommend visiting to anyone with even an inkling of appreciation for space.

Still with a few hours left to kill before bedtime, we made the trek to Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, an outdoor mini amusement park.

The amusement park was officially opened on the pier in 1940, as a recreational facility for US military. It became the biggest and most popular in the whole country. Even during our visit, which was only in the evening, the pier was filled with people enjoying the rides and games the pier has to offer.

For us, it was a nice way to wind down a busy but enjoyable Texas day.

Have you visited NASA? What’s your favourite thing about space?

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