It's the 40th anniversary of the Moon Landing, when man first set foot on the moon. It's an incredible feat, the culmination of years of hard work, sacrifice, and determination. It's an amazing achievement. When I was younger, I used to daydream about being an astronaut. I wanted to blast into outer space; I'd pretend to be on the moon, exploring the exotic landscape. I used to look up at the moon and stars and lose myself in wonders of these heavenly bodies, imagining myself up there, discovering new and fantastic things.
One of my favorite places to visit in Houston is the NASA Space Center (Johnson Space Center). I remember being really excited at actually getting to see the Houston Space Center, the one from "Houston, we have a problem." It's an incredible experience to actually tour the site that's still in operation. I was awed by looking at the actual satellites and rockets and equipment they used (and still use) for space exploration.
It was so cool being surrounded by millions of dollars worth of technology and models and equipments. But you know what the most expensive thing was in the entire Space Center? It wasn't the rockets or the moon buggies or lunar landers. Nope. The most expensive thing in the Space Center (and in the whole world) was a small piece of moon rock the size of a small coin! That's right. That tiny moon rock was worth more than any diamonds or gems or advanced technology in the world! It was stuck in a glass case under security, and you could feel its surface with your fingers, but you couldn't pry the dang thing off--I tried repeatedly!
They had so much cool stuff to see and explore at the Houston Space Center. They had movies where you could watch the progress and the exciting realization of the man's mission to the moon. And they had these different tours, where you get on a tram, and you go into the actual place where research and development in space travel is taking place. If you visit during the week, you can actually see astronauts training for space missions! Some of them might be working the controls for the mock International Space Station or the shuttle. One tour even has the option of eating lunch at the astronauts mess hall.
You can see the actual old space rockets and capsules from the previous space missions. On display were the Mercury and Gemini and Apollo capsules the astronauts used to get back to earth. Those were the ones that crashed in the ocean and were retrieved by ships. They even have this huge Saturn rocket on display!
But the coolest experience for me was to see the old mission control center! It was so unreal being in that room that planned and carried out the mission to the moon! I was looking at the old, huge, outdated computers and whispered to my friend how amazing it was that my laptop was more powerful than all those old NASA computers put together. And then the tour guide said the same thing a few minutes later! I was like, "Cool!"
It's unbelievable that my old laptop has more processing power than all those huge old computers that plotted the path to and from the moon! It makes the achievement all the more amazing, when you realize just how daring and smart those NASA people were!
We also got to see the new (current) Mission Control Center, where they actually monitor the current space missions. There was a countdown clock. The tour guide said that's so they would know when to wake up the astronauts to start their work day in outer space! Can you imagine an outer space wake up call?
There were also some surprises at the Space Center. XL has an excellent post about the Moon Missions. He also mentions that he remembers when the Johnson Space Center was a cow pasture. Well, guess what? It's still a cow pasture! That's right! Mooooooo! They have cattle at the Houston Space Center! Longhorns to be exact. Now, being that I went to a rival school, the only way that I can support Longhorns is if they're being served to me medium rare to well done or chicken fried! Mmmmm...It was so weird but fitting seeing cattle next to space rockets. It's so Texas and American at the same time.
I really like going to the Houston Space Center. It reminds me of the amazing things human beings are capable of doing, that when we come together, we can take to the heavens. The moon landing is one of man's greatest achievements. It is an incredible feat, a great testament to humanity's ingenuity, imagination, and the indomitable human spirit.