Ohana Sailing Adventure

Traveling at the Speed of Light

OK, so it just FEELS like the speed of light compared to travel by boat…

But to do 2200 miles in 8 days, as opposed to our 6800 miles in 10 months, reminds us just how slowly we travel by boat.

With Ohana on the hard getting work done, we visited friends and family and then drove back to Florida, driving 2200 miles in 8 days. With learning a lot about ocean exploration in our school work this year (not to mention our personal lives!), a stop at Space Center Houston seemed a natural extension to learn about our country’s history of exploration into space.

Saturn V Rocket

Johnson Space Center houses one of only three remaining Saturn V rockets, living in a hangar built around it. The tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket yet flown, the Saturn V is a sight to behold. Used to send the Apollo missions to the moon, all three stages are on display for close-up examination.

Mission Control for the International Space Center

With the International Space Station (ISS) under 24-hour monitoring, part of the tour through Mission Control is a view of a control room, as well as a live feed of monitored information. (Also, because they are actively monitoring the ISS, the tour guides warned that any disruption of the workflow would result in the building being locked down and all tours canceled for the rest of the day.)

There are also exhibits of different desks through the ages, and a renovation is underway to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing this summer, to have the Apollo mission control room renovated to historic accuracy.

Astronaut Training Facility

Walking an elevated path through a large hangar, we got to see NASA’s astronaut training facility in Building 9. We saw Valkyrie, a humanoid robot and apparently the first to be able to walk up stairs independently, being put through some ‘exercises’. We also saw the future home for some of the training for Orion.

Mission to Mars

One of the coolest parts of the Space Center is the displays dedicated to the future – first making it further into space than we’ve yet traveled, and eventually making it to Mars. The Orion spacecraft, designed to “take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before”, the new Space Launch System (the most powerful rocket built to date), prototypes of new spacesuits, a new plant growth system – a lot of it still seems theoretical, but then we passed by Building 17 where the Orion project is housed, and even as soon as June 2019 there are plans to test the Launch Abort System.

Starship Gallery

In contrast to the Mission to Mars exhibits outlining the future of space travel, is evidence of the past that is throughout the Space Center. Seeing artifacts from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs is moving – the guts and fortitude that those early astronauts had to possess are awe-inspiring. The girls were speechless (a rarity!) at being able to touch a moon rock.

Independence Plaza

And of course the image that I always envision when I think about NASA, is the Space Shuttle. This is especially personal for our family because Grandpa Wallace was part of the Rockwell International engineering team that designed the Space Shuttle.

Independence Plaza houses the NASA 905, one of the two actual 747 shuttle carrier aircrafts; this one carried space shuttles 223 times. The inside gives you a glimpse into the interior adjustments needed to use it as a shuttle carrier; information lines both sides of the fuselage as well as displays down the center; the girls also had fun playing with a wind tunnel mock-up, trying to balance an airplane model to allow it to fly in different wind conditions. The space shuttle Independence that is on top of the carrier, is a mock up that is nevertheless impressive to tour.

We hope that this day trip helped the girls to understand some of the amazing history behind us in getting into space, as well as inspiring them to dream about what may come.

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