Monday, December 2, 2013

Johnson Space Center & Pats-Texans Game

Johnson Space Center & Pats-Texans
By Andy Lopusnak,
Nov 30-Dec 1, 2013

As much as Baltimore as become the bane of my photographic existence, Houston is right behind the Charm City. This trip for the Patriots-Texans game marks my 15th NFL game in Houston (that doesn’t include the week I was here for my first Final Four in 2011). In all these trips, I never hoofed it to Johnson Space Center, which is an hour drive from the airport. With my flight landing at 8:30 AM, I decided to go this time.

It’s 87 steps from the ground up to Historic Mission Control. From the beginnings of the space program into the early 1990s, this is where all space missions were controlled from the ground. In the 1990s, Mission Control moved a level below (sadly, the tour didn’t go there since there are active missions on the International Space Station).
After it was decommissioned, NASA restored Historic Mission Control to look like it did during the moon landing. Even the chairs are authentic in the view room, complete with ashtrays. This is where the historic, “Houston, we have a problem” line was relayed to from space.

Covering more than a football field, the Saturn V was used from 1967-73 for all the Apollo missions. The USA launched 13 Saturn V rockets. It remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket launched. 
Outside are two rockets: 1). the Little Joe II launch vehicle that was used in high-altitude abort testing for the Apollo missions from 1964-66; and 2). The Mercury-Redstone that sent the first two American astronauts into space in 1961. There are also some boost engines outside of the Saturn V complex.

Outside of the main entrance is the Space Shuttle Independence, which was originally named Explorer and was on display at Kennedy Space Center when I was there in 2010. It was renamed Independence on October 5 of this year. Eventually, the Boeing 747 Space Carrier Aircraft that carried the shuttles from Texas to Florida for launches will be part of an exhibit and have Independence atop it. For now, it’s fenced off.

In June of this year, the JSC put on permanent display the shuttlecraft Galileo full-sized prop for the Star Trek Original Series. 
In 2010, my wife surprised me for my birthday when we were living in Tampa by taking me to the Kennedy Space Center, which is about an hour away from Orlando. KSC was a far better experience than JSC. Seeing the actual Mission Control Center for all the moon landings was awesome, but I felt there was a lot lacking at JSC.

I was more than a bit miffed that there were three soft of different tram tours that should’ve been combined into one. The tours are essentially to buildings that are next to each other, but because the JSC wants to sell stupid photos of people in front of a green screen they are separated. This separation means that at least an extra hour of waiting for the tram is needed for each tour. On top of that, the same audio is played for most of each tour and all three end at the Rocket Park, which means you need to ride another tram back ten additional minutes to the Visitors Center to wait for another tram tour. It should be one tour instead of three. Throughout the tours, NASA claimed how it conserves time and gas in space flight; however, when it comes to the tram tours they apparently like to waste gas for the tram and the time of the visitors. Parking is $6 and adult general admission is $28.
Houston dropped its tenth straight game (after starting the year 2-0) and New England won its second straight after trailing by double-digit points as Tom Brady tossed for over 300 yards for the 57th time in his Hall of Fame career (good for fifth most ever). His favorite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski posted his 12th career 100+ receiving yard game, as well as an outstanding diving touchdown grab.
In a losing effort, Texans WR Andre Johnson became the second fastest player in NFL history to top 900 career catches. He finished with 121 yards – his 49th career game with over 100 (sixth most ever).

UP NEXT – hoops/NFL double dip
I get my first college basketball game of the 2013-14 season Saturday when UCLA goes to Missouri, then Sunday I’ll be in the Nati for the Colts-Bengals game.

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