When MadMac’s VA appointments were finally fulfilled, for the time being, we had to figure out our next destination. It was too cold to head north back to Kentucky, frozen black and grey tanks would not be fun, no thank you. It was too late at this point to make it to the Fulltime Families rally in Florida or the Xscapers Convergence in Arizona. We talked about going to visit old friends in northern Arizona, but the weather forecasts we had been tracking hadn’t warmed up enough at night and could still freeze us up. Also the D20Nomads had run into snowy weather on their way to Arizona, and we weren’t ready for that! LOL! So we decided to explore Texas some more. We wanted to head a little further west to the San Antonio area, while we waited for the season to warm up just a bit more in other locations. The Alamo and San Antonio River Walk were calling our names.
But, before we could hit the road again we HAD to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The day we went, there was some sort of auction event going on that didn’t really seem to be related to space, possibly a fund raiser. In the central area of the building where they usually have exhibits that change periodically, they instead had vendors set up all over the place selling items and food. It kind of detracted from the visit, because it was the first thing you see but there were no signs explaining what this was, and it was a bit confusing with their layout. We had to work our way around the vendors to get to the actual space attractions we wanted to see. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed the visit.
Of course one of the first things the kids noticed was the big Angry Birds Space Encounter play area. They have interactive exhibits in here for the kids to learn from, however most of them seemed broken and inoperable 😦 There was an exhibit upstairs where the kids could operate small mars rover type vehicles with remote controls while watching them on a video screen, and the actual rovers were in another section downstairs where people could see them being moved around. They also had an Apollo mission Command Module type exhibit setup where they could climb in and sit in the chairs laying on their backs and watch a small tv screen of an Apollo mission Saturn V rocket blasting off.
We took the Tram Tour that takes you around the complex of the Johnson Space Center which is made up of lots of different buildings like a university campus. During the tour we got to sit in the viewing room that looks into the mission control room that was used during the Moon Missions. While you are sitting there listening to the tour guide you can see a live view of the International Space Station (ISS) on a TV in one corner of the room, and then a TV in another corner shows the live activity in the current mission control room.
After that they took us to see the Mock Up Facility where they have all the different space station modules set up for training and familiarization, as well as Soyuz the Russian orbital module which accommodates crews traveling to the space station and back. Each module of the space station is labeled with their names which enabled us to look each one up online to find out more about them.
You can also see other technology in development in this facility, like a number of different rover type vehicles, robots, space suits, and the new Orion capsule.
Next, the tour took us to the Saturn V rocket, which is five giant pieces on display. There are the three stages that would each fall away during flight and then next in line is the Spacecraft/Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) which housed the Lunar Module itself and at the end is the Launch Escape System (LES) which contained the Command Module where the astronauts were carried, at the very top. There were 15 Saturn V rockets built for the Apollo program but only 13 of them were used before the program was canceled, parts of the one on display were meant to be Apollo 18. It was pretty amazing to see what those giant rockets looked like up close and personal!
Spacecraft/Lunar Module Adapter (SLA)
Launch Escape System (LES)
After our Tram Tour we didn’t have time to catch any of the scheduled shows. So we rode one of the simulator rides where we got to fly through space and see amazing sights, then we entered a wormhole that brought us back to earth in the future….it was fun, LOL. Then, we explored all the exhibits from the Moon Missions, walked through a skylab exhibit, and walked through a Space Shuttle replica and one of the actual airplanes that carried them, that it was attached to. There was also the Star Trek Galileo Shuttlecraft prop on display from the original TV series…apparently it was the largest prop used on the show.
The kids were amazed by the Apollo 17 Command Module on display to look inside of. The bottom side of it was partially burnt upon re-entry to our atmosphere. But, one of the most exciting moments for the kids was touching the moon rock…..that thousands of other people also touched…..my mommy brain wished for hand sanitizer after thinking about that. By the time we had looked at everything we could look at, it was coming up on closing time, so we hit the gift shop and picked up some souvenirs before we had to leave. This fantastic experience came to an end, but we had more on the horizon 🙂