29 April 2014

A visit to NASA - 2013

My memory of our world's forays into Outer Space date back to July 1969.  We were given a day off in school at midday when it was announced that Man had landed on the Moon.  I thought of this as a some far-fetched notion that older people were always trotting out to children.  Later, my father sent me and my brother couple of beautifully illustrated books about the space mission and the Moon.  He was in the USA at that time. My brother also got a toy model of the spacecraft that had to be assembled. We were not able to get it together because a special kind of glue was required which was not available in India.

Much later I kept hearing about Houston as the place where all space missions were controlled.  "Houston, we've had a problem here" is a famous quote.

Even before I was to visit Houston, I looked up some places I could visit locally and found the NASA tour as a tourist attraction. I just had to visit the place.

From where we were living, Johnson Space Center was barely a 10-minute drive away.  On a clear sunny day, plentiful in Houston, we made our way to NASA. 

For the visitors, NASA has rides and games for little children.  A trip through a scaled down model of the spacecraft.  A film about the first landing, a museum of space artefacts (spacesuits, moon rock, pictures, the actual vehicle used on moon for scouting, etc), and a tour around the NASA campus.  The area is highly classified and no one may wander except on the tour bus.

We saw the film, went around the museum, checked out the spacecraft model, went on the campus tour.  The campus tour is mostly just pointing out to various buildings where no one is admitted.  We did get to peek into one building where brainstorming takes place.  It was littered with desktop computers and was empty as it was a Saturday.  We got ourselves photographed against parts of Apollo 13 rocket that are housed in a large warehouse.  We even visited the souvenir shop and bought some fridge magnets and tiny stuff like that.

Just before we embarked on the campus tour, we were photographed against a blue screen.  We thought these were security measures.  I was amused when we were handed some pictures of us against various backdrops, a rocket etc, and given an option of buying them.  These were photoshopped versions of our picture taken earlier.  It was almost like we were back in Jaipur, being urged to buy prints of our pictures photoshopped against various monuments.  The price was steep, so we refused the prints. 

Later, my daughter was able to download a stamped version of that picture from the NASA site.  



That evening we were to go and see "Gravity" in the local IMAX.  Watching simulated Space in 3D for the second time in the day was quite eerie.  The children were not very kicked about the film, as little happens during it.  But I liked it, even if it was rather claustrophobia-inducing to see poor Sandra Bullock trapped in space.

1 comment:

  1. So you had a nice trip to the US!
    I think there are tourist trappings everywhere! But how awful to take your pics without your permission and they try to sell you expensive copies of it.
    So did you also get a piece of moon rock or at least some dust? ;)
    In India you would have got that as well.

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