A couple of Thursdays ago, after two interviews via Facetime in the morning and Define Fitness Class, I set out to NASA Johnson Space Centre. My phone wasn’t playing ball, so couldn’t sort out sat nav, so I took several snapshots on my ipad of the journey there from the hotel I was staying at. I hadn’t yet driven on the freeway, but was very confident driving around the city in the little red Chevrolet so I decided to bite the bullet. And entered the five line freeway, where everyone undertakes and overtakes and the signposts made no sense.
After 45mins of middle lane driving (which I never do normally) I turned off onto NASA Bypass and finally came upon the Space Station. Thankfully, it didn’t seem that busy. I had purposely chosen a day after Spring Break so that it wasn’t packed to the rafters with children and parents. Two school buses were just pulling up to take school children back to their schools. I had timed it well. I chose not to get the audio ticket and approached the doors.
In case you don’t know, NASA stands for National Air & Space Administration. It first opened up with the Mercury Missions in 1961 and most of the planing and training is done here, with high-profile launches from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
Inside was cool. I entered what seemed to be a large hanger which was set out so that one had to go round the outer edges. I could see a childs play area to my right and hastily passed it (I had just seen Angry Birds in Space).
After heading to the section that was all about Mars, missions to Mars, Martians and the possibility of travelling to Mars for holidays, I wandered over to the Space Center Theater (sic).
On the back wall were pictures of the astronauts that had been in space and also the ones in training and then along the sides were some of the space suits that were worn in the shuttles, space walking or moon landing. Beside each of the suits were information on the suits and who either wore them or a bit of background knowledge. I was very interested to read about the women who had gone into space.
Sally Kristen Ride was the first American woman in space in 1983 and (I had to search this) Helen Sherman was a chemist and became the first British astronaut.
Kathryn Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space which she did 11 October 1984. It was a 3.5 hour spacewalk in which her and her partner operated a system designed to show that a satelite can be refuelled in orbit.
In 1978 NASA started accepting women into the astronaut corps. Judith Resnik was one of six women selected. She was there to conduct scientific experiments on the shuttle and her first flight was in 1984 was on the maiden voyage of Discovery and became the 2nd American woman in space.
On January 28, 1986, the NASA shuttle orbiter mission STS-51-L and the tenth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members, which consisted of five NASA astronauts and two payload specialists. Judith Resnik was on board.
“Astronauts don’t have to be either feminine, or very masculine women or very superhuman male, or any colour or anything; it’s about the people in space” Judith Resnik 1979
After reading up as much info I could on these women, I wandered over to the Tracking Station at Mission Control.
That was really fascinating, seeing the world at real time from space. I spent a while reading up on that before going to listen to talk on how to live in space. Eating, sleeping, exercise etc.
There is a 90 min tram tour which I wasn’t able to do, as I had only a short window there. With the amount of traffic on the freeway I needed to give myself two hours to get back, but I’m hopeful to try and get there again and do the tour. As it is, I now only have three more days off before my time here comes to an end; and two of those days off are the possibilty of a roadtrip to Austin. I have lost count how many times people have said that I must go to Austin.
After an eventful journey back to River Oaks (I came off on the wrong freeway) I was pleased that I had managed to fit in a visit to NASA. To be honest there isn’t a huge amount to see around here and my nights off consist of taking myself out to dinner and then getting to bed early and the days visiting the museums and cafe’s. It’s been quite a tough gig here as the baby has had one thing after another thrown at her, but hopefully we are on the turn. I’m counting down the days until the end of the month when I fly back to the UK and exciting and new things.