Sunday, December 2, 2018

We're There for the Mars Landing!

November 24-27, 2018
Pearland, Texas

We went north from Breaux Bridge last time, so our 230 mile continuation west on I-10 is new territory for us. The highway is much better here, except for the rough sections of construction that look like they started years ago and won't be complete until 2020. Glad this isn't my commute!

This southeast corner of Texas is lots of industry and oil, so even with water views, it's not a pretty drive. Oh well, it gets us just south of Houston where we have plans to see friends and space stuff.

Pearland RV Park is a small, immaculate park tucked in between agriculture and a bedroom community. Paved, level sites with good utility placement, well maintained lawns. No picnic tables or fire rings, a few small trees. The park WiFi is strong and consistent. Staff are friendly as are our neighbors. It's also a perfect location for what we want to do here - I highly recommend if you're in the area.

Monday morning starts early (for Bill, I sleep in) as we're finally getting the rig washed and waxed. It's been way too long, through lots of dirt and rain, and it feels great to have our home all clean and shiny again. 

Although we bypassed the worst of the Louisiana roads, we still covered a lot of rough spots. Last time it was a fried step motor, this time the cleaners find the right side mirror has pulled out from the body. It's so heavy, there's no way we're going anywhere like that....

As soon as the crew of three is done, we're out the door to see the Space Center Houston. It's an easy 20 minute drive, and one of the main reasons I chose this park.

The Space Center Houston opened October 16, 1992.
There is so much to see here, well worth the $30 entry fee. It's Monday-light with no lines, and no crowds. One of the staff tells me it was a 2 hour wait to catch the outdoor tram the day before. Today it's just walk-on.

But it's also 55 degrees with 13 mph winds, and I wuss-out for the open-sided tram. We'll have to come back to see Rocket Park and the back lot of Johnson Space Center. There's still plenty to see on what turns out to be a historic day to be here.

One of those places where you have to remember to look up. Here the final Gemini mission's Faith 7  "floats" overhead.

Large artifacts from the Gemini and Apollo missions are wonderful to see up close.
Many amazing accomplishments before and after, but nothing compares with the moon landing missions.

The vault includes one of the largest collections of Moon rocks, and a representation of the lab that has been studying Moon matter for 30 years.

Touching the Moon. A little piece of a big deal.

Nothing found on the Moon is unidentifiable. Everything they've got - we've got it too!

The Skylab replica (original disintegrated in space, and some fell to earth in 1979) is a great opportunity to see what it was like to live in the first space station.

There is no "up" in space, so making things fit takes precedence. Three separate crews of three spent a total of 168 days in the low orbit facility. Skylab was the only space center operated exclusively by the US.

 Robonaut 2 was the first humanoid robot in space, traveling to the space station in 2011. This robot can complete an EVA (space walk) in the time it takes an astronaut to get in their suit.

Model 39-0 is one of many models in many scales used to test the shuttle design. It's worn and scarred from hundreds of wind tunnel tests.

At Independence Plaza the 159 ton NASA 905 and 80 ton shuttle replica provide a very real experience of just what a big deal this program was. 

The shuttle cockpit looks like a much more comfortable ride back to Earth than those little capsules!

The capacity of the shuttle is huge. Makes sense when you realize that the space station was built with massive pieces transported into space by the shuttles.

Astronauts spent over 1300 hours in EVA suits to build and maintain the space station.

The shuttle's waste management system. Love those handles :-)))

Celebrating many "firsts" during the 30-year Space Shuttle program. It ended on April 12, 2011

The answer to the question "Who thought that was a good idea?" is John Kiker. Figuring out the weight distribution and so much else with radio controlled models. Incredible!

Practice loading the shuttle on the 747 - not easy!

NASA 905 interior is now a well designed information center.
Good timing is usually a fluke for us. Today is no different. And what an exciting fluke this is!! We miss the announcement but soon it's obvious that what people are watching displayed on the big wall is important. We're landing InSight on Mars!! Right now! Mission Control is live and we watch them count down a landing that begins at over 12,000 mph. And ends with a flawless touchdown on the planet's surface. They all cheer, we all cheer. It's wonderful to be here for this historic NASA event. 

Mission Control finalizing InSight's flight to Mars that began in May.

The over 8 months trip ends today as she counts down in successful landing!

Mission Control erupts in cheers and applause as they hug and celebrate completing the most difficult part of the mission.
The presentation of  Mission to Mars includes what InSight will do on the surface. Unlike the two mobile Rovers already on planet, this probe is a stationary unit with a crane that will place different equipment, including a drill to test temperatures.

Of course we see this later....not sure we would've known the day's date anyway :-)
We check out more exhibits in the main lobby and then see another film - EVA 23. A dramatic true story of a space walk gone bad. Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano nearly drowned outside the space station!

The combination of live footage, reenactments and story telling take us from what starts out as dampness on his neck, to a zero-gravity ball of water floating over his eyes and nose. Getting back to the hatch in the pitch dark, unable to see or breathe, it's very tense. And even after he's back inside, removing an EVA helmet is not a quick task!

Following the engineers and scientists while they figure out the whats and hows is really interesting.

A beautiful theater, but the huge screen means watching with your neck bent back for the whole film. So nice to have no crowds.
We loved our day at the space center!

No luck fixing the mirror on our own, and Bill finds a place nearby who agrees to squeeze us in to see if they can do it when we leave.

Tuesday afternoon we visit our 19th stadium - the Houston Texans' NRG Stadium. It takes awhile to find an open gate, and the security guard doesn't know what a pro-shop is, but we do get to check out the grounds a bit. It's another facility with very little team identity. You have to look hard to know the Texans play here. 

The youngest team in the NFL, the Texans started here in 2002.

A lovely sculpture garden between the stadium and the Astrodome.

Dreams and Memories

Texas Legacy 

A small slice of team identity.
On our way to the stadium we try to see the Eclectic Menagerie - a quirky display of art made from old pipe. We see a corner of it from the highway, but can't find how to get through all the pipe manufacturing lots. Maybe next time :-)

For dinner we meet up with wonderful friends Kelli and Lindsey and their son Kaiden. I worked with Kelli for years, and she and Kaiden moved to Texas years ago to be with family. Wife Lindsey is a perfect addition, and we have another fun visit. 

I fail to get a pic, but shamelessly steal this from social media - Kelli, Kaiden and Lindsey. Love you three!

Wednesday we'll move south, back to the gulf coast (yes, the mirror gets fixed).


  1. Wow, what a great adventure your day at the space museum was! I remember my parents let me stay up late to watch the Apollo mission landings on TV. Then the next day at school all the kids were talking about it too.

    1. That Moon landing was a great memory for so many of us! The Space Center is a really great place to visit.

  2. I was able to view the launch of the InSight and watched the NASA broadcast of the landing on the computer. We've driven past Houston, but have not stopped for their displays. Thanks again for taking us along.

    1. We would have missed it at home so I'm really excited we were at the center to see it!

  3. Wow! What perfect timing to visit the Space Center! I would have loved seeing the InSight landing live with all that excitement! Lucky you!

    1. We'll always feel a "part" of the mission to Mars now.

  4. Gotta love your luck. Amazing unintentional timing for the landing. I'd say you got your money's worth for that high price tag. I assume $30 a head. Great coverage of the information at Space Center Houston. Love that you included the waste station. Guses you really need those handles up there. How did you find the wash and wax to set it up? Costly?

    1. Yes, $30 each and really worth it with so much to see (especially on an uncrowded day). The cleaners had cards in the park office. It's usually $10/foot for w&w including roof to wheels, but this crew charged $250 which was a good deal for us. We tipped them well for squeezing us in :-)

  5. Great timing!!! I lived outside of Houston when we first landed on the moon, a school trip to Johnson Space Center afterwards was so cool. Crazy how they could land on the moon with a computer system that my iPhone is more powerful than. If you find yourself in Port Aransas let us know.

    1. We're in Corpus Christi! I sent you an email to see if we can get together :-)

      Comparing that technology is crazy!

  6. You guys do have great timing! And glad the mirror was fixed--those roads are awful!

    1. It was so fun. As much as we love Louisiana the roads are too hard on the rig!!

  7. We were fortunate enough to see NASA 905 with Columbia on her back as she landed at Kelly AFB in Texas in 1982. I definitely want to see the inside of that plane! And I am, of course, incredible excited (and jealous) that you saw the Insight landing! We must get there!

    1. We sure thought of you guys during our visit!! You'll love all the engineering and weight balancing in that giant plane. But go on a slow day or you'll never see most of it.

  8. Perfect timing for an otherwise great looking place to tour.

  9. Great trip! Looking forward to this too!

    1. The Space Center was fantastic. And I'm sure the shuttle tour we missed is just as good so give yourself lots of time!