“One small step for a man…” Houston, Texas

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Such a brilliant day at the Space Centre, home of Mission Control for the Apollo Missions, moon landings, etc. We had reserved tickets online and thought that on arrival we would simply present the confirmation on our phones and we would be in. In reality we arrived early and found long queues of families also waiting to either buy tickets or, like us, to receive tickets from confirmations. However, 10 am arrived, the ticket desks opened and we were swiftly through.
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So, what to do first? My personal ambition was to see Mission Control and one of the parts of our tickets provided trolley rides out through the site and admission to Mission Control. So far, no problem, Houston. We took one of the early trolleys and we were off. The narration was provided by young stewards who read scripts as part of their training. Unfortunately, like many trainees, they wanted to get through the script as quickly as possible and it was difficult for us to follow. However, we were decanted at Mission Control and it was then easier to understand the narrative. After climbing 54 steps to the top of the building, we were seated in a viewing gallery overlooking the area where the experts read the information coming back from the Apollo space crafts on their large computers and responded to the voices of the Astronauts, especially those immortal words from Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem”. The desks are exactly as they were and the positions of the key people are clearly identified. Really fascinating.
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Back on the trolley, our next stop was the opportunity to walk around the total length of a Saturn rocket. We were totally amazed to see the final (very) small capsule in the nose cone where the astronauts sit. The whole length of Saturn is overlooked by banners recalling the different missions which used the rocket. There are films to see along the way showing Mission Control at the time and the astronauts who took part in the quests to conquer space.
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We then took the opportunity to return to the Centre and explore the rockets which piggy backed on the back of a jet [Shuttles). Amazingly, you can walk through the aircraft and view the inside of the rocket. Whichever method used, the huge Saturn rocket or the more compact rocket on top of the aircraft, the space for the astronauts is tiny and cramped. When you see it up close it is very, very real and you cannot help having renewed respect and admiration for those very brave souls who risked (and in some cases gave) their lives in pursuit of knowledge.
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The exhibitions in the Centre are amazing and, because so many are interactive, they provide something for everyone to enjoy from the space nerds to small children and everyone else in between. There is also a lovely part of the grounds planted with trees, each one commemorating an astronaut who will not be flying any more missions. It was a truly fascinating day and we involved ourselves in the interactive exhibits, got lost amongst the huge tableaux and had to send text messages to each other detailing where to meet, enjoyed some of the characters (both staff and fellow browsers) and generally walked our legs down.
Not wanting to miss a thing we drove into Houston but totally failed to find the “centre”. We eventually presumed we had seen uptown, downtown and several bits in between so went to dinner!
Off to Dallas in the morning from our hotel in Pasadena and not too long a drive.

 

Carolyn’s Curios and Curiosities

It may have been, “One small step for a man”, according to Neil Armstrong but, as Kath mentioned, it was 54 steps to get us to the Control Room! On the day of the Moon Landing in July, 1969, I was camping in a field near Barmouth, Wales and managed to watch the landing on a tiny portable television powered by a car battery. In the midst of our excitement and clamour, a crowd surrounding the minuscule screen was almost amusing but, of course, what we saw was still amazing! Later that evening, as we gazed up to a bright summer Moon, we talked realistically of the ‘Man’, not in, but, on ‘the Moon’. What we heard on the crackling sound, of course, was “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” which, thinking about it later, didn’t make sense as ‘man’ and ‘mankind’ in that context are synonyms. On analysis later, after reading Armstrong’s views on it, he claims – and who am I to doubt it – he actually said “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. As Michael Caine might have said (but didn’t), “And, not a lot of people know that!”

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Note: “Houston, we have a problem” is not the actual quote (I looked it up!). What was actually said by Jack Swigert was, “Okay, Houston, we’ve had problem here”. Needless to say, we didn’t have a problem – we had a great time!

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A teenage hero of mine…feeling reminiscent at Space Center Houston.

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