If you are in the Houston area you MUST visit Space Center Houston. It is the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and a Smithsonian Affiliate museum. It was one of the most amazing experiences
I just returned from a trip to Houston and Sugarland Texas for a Junior League conference. It was my first trip to Houston and I hope not my last one. My friend Sara is a Rocket Scientist, you read that right!!! She works for NASA in California and is working on projects to get unmanned crafts into space. In Houston they work on getting humans to space.
We received the ultimate behind the scenes tour like no other. We literally got access to areas where only NASA employees and Astronauts go.
NASA Space Center Houston
NASA Johnson Space Center, which they also call JSC is located on 1,600 acres in Houston. JSC is the training base and home to American astronauts. It is also the home of Mission Control, hence “Houston we have a problem.” In mission control a room full of experts from flight controllers to doctors support the work of our women and men in space.
Did you know that over the last 18 years at least 2 people have been in space living on the International Space Station (ISS)? Our tour guides have worked at NASA for over a decade and the pride and enthusiasm they had on this tour was palpable and made a lasting impact on me.
We spent a lot of time in this hallway where the walls of Mission Control document the missions that built the ISS. Our tour guides each had favorite parts of the International Space Station. It was the first time I had ever really thought about what went into having a space station.
JSC is the hub as human spaceflight activity. During these years Mission Control has been the location that is monitoring and working with the astronauts to accomplish their missions. It is home to the nation’s astronaut corps, the International Space Station mission operations, the Orion Program, and a host of future space developments.
When we arrived at Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control at first we were learning about all the different teams that monitor and work with the astronauts 24/7. There are about 50 people on each team. Each of the three teams work about 9 hour shifts. In addition, there are engineers assigned to each mission in case there is a problem. Each of the teams has a flight director and CAPCOM.
And then the coolest thing happened the big screen changed to a video feed of the Astronauts. They were wearing masks and taking lots of photos. We were lucky to be there to watch as the Astronauts unloaded supplies from a robotic Japanese resupply ship.
After a 5 day orbital chase, he HTV-7 freighter (the gold craft in the photo below) arrived with more than 5 tons of science gear, food, fuel and other supplies. They were wearing masks because during the 5 days some of the supplies may have shook things lose.
We also visited the historic Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) from which NASA led Gemini and Apollo missions, including the momentous first lunar landing mission as well as early space shuttle missions. It is currently being refurbished, but our tour guide shared how they used to hold talks and even movie watching nights in the room..
As we walked through Building 9 I was so excited when I realized that since 1980, every NASA astronaut has walked in this building. Building 9 is the home of the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at NASA Johnson Space Center.
Astronauts train within this full-size classroom in the heart of NASA Johnson Space Center. Since its inception in 1975, the astronaut training facility has supported NASA’s missions.
There have been several types of mockups within the facility. They functionally train astronauts and engineers for space missions and life on the International Space Station This it where the astronauts trained to go into space when the Shuttle program was active.
When the shuttle program ended some of the modules were transferred to museums. This one crew-compartment trainer remains and we got to go inside to experience it all. On the first floor is the living area. And up above is the flight control area.
Every inch of space is used on the shuttle. This photo shows some of the compartments. On the right is the kitchen area.
Below is the bathroom. There is not much privacy when you are on a space shuttle. When it is time to sleep they have beds that look like sleeping bags that they strap to the walls.
The building is home to exploration rover prototypes and other robotics projects such as Valkyrie, NASA’s next generation of humanoid robot also known as R5. International Space Station modules help astronauts become familiarized with the space station in preparation for their mission.
Although equipment in Building 9 may change, the goal of the training facility has remained the same. It houses almost 200 training courses to help astronauts become familiar with the spacecraft. Their goal is to learn its various systems and prepare for emergencies that may occur during a mission. They said at NASA their goal is to Fail on the Ground!
The astronaut training facility has become the central hub for resolving issues during missions. If a problem were to occur aboard the ISS, JSC officials would come to the facility to work through the situation with engineers, then relay the step-by-step process to the astronauts in orbit.
Note if you go on the Astronaut Training Facility Tour you will walk an elevated path through the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility and not down below like we go to go.
Rocket Park is home to one of only three Saturn V rockets on display in the world. The rocket is the only one assembled with all flight-certified hardware. To me learning about the funding of NASA was extremely interesting. Congress and the President determine not only the funding, but also the projects that NASA will work on. This comes with its own set of challenges. For example this rocket was ready to go into space until the funding for the program was cut and now there are three rockets around the country that are just for show.
Pin for Later: NASA Space Center Houston