More space sightseeing

Katy went to Space Academy and we toured Marshall Space Flight Center but she and Heath weren’t finished. We left San Antonio Tuesday morning and eventually made it to Houston. It should have been a three-hour drive but ended up taking six for some reason. We did make a stop at Buc-ees so Heath could see one. And like the Grand Canyon, you kind of have to see Buc-ees to believe it. It’s the Wal-Mart of convenience stores. The restrooms don’t have one or even two stalls, they have more like 30. And they’re all clean. With hand-sanitizer between every stall. And according to their billboards, mints at the urinals. Well, maybe not quite, but they could!

Bucees restroom
Bucees restroom

Heath said it was the fanciest restroom he’d ever seen outside of a fancy hotel.

Snack selection. Peppered elk jerkey, anyone?
Snack selection. Peppered elk jerkey, anyone?

They also have no end of hot foods and sandwiches. We bought kolaches, something else on my to-do list. They also have computers where you can put in your order for a custom-made sandwich and at least one Buc-ees has those computers at the gas pumps so you can take care of it while waiting for your gas to pump.

If you want it, they probably have it.
If you want it, they probably have it.

We were on the snack end of the store and Heath asked what was on the other end because you couldn’t see it from where we were standing. I told him “junky souvenirs” so we had to go look at those, too.

Souvenir section
Souvenir section

OK. So enough about Buc-ees. Onto Houston. We drove through Katy so our Katy could have her picture taken with a sign. I never saw anything that looked like Katy City Limits or Welcome to Katy on the side of the road so we settled for the water tower.

Two Katys
Two Katys

We were hoping to get there early enough to go to Galveston and put our feet in the ocean or go to Moody Gardens or something but since it took twice as long we just hung out at the hotel and found some place to eat dinner.

Wednesday we headed out to Houston Space Center. It wasn’t nearly as crowded as when Katy and I went with my parents two years ago. We spent 8 1/2 hours and saw and did nearly everything. They are having a temporary exhibit of all things Mars.

Finally!
Finally!

Heath and Katy immediately wanted to see what it was like to walk on Mars. Katy was about an inch too short but they let her do it anyway.

Katy got stuck here
Katy got stuck here
Heath had a hard time in the same spot
Heath had a hard time in the same spot

The next thing was to jump off a platform. I don’t know what this is supposed to simulate. Katy was a little too light but they let her on anyway.

"Um, it's awfully high up here"
“Um, it’s awfully high up here”

You can’t really see her up there. That’s as far as she got. After about two minutes she decided she’d take the stairs. Two kids ahead of her did, too.

Heath did better.

Geronimo!
Geronimo!

Score 1 for the landing — he landed on his feet and then fell over.

Touching a Mars meteor
Touching a Mars meteorite

If Katy never makes it to Mars, she’ll know she at least touched part of it.

There are two tram tours of Johnson Space Center and we had time to do them both. First we did mission control. I thought we were going to see the current mission control but it turns out you see the historic mission control from the ’60s and ’70s. They had everything crated away until the building was made a registered historic site so they put it all back together, including the seats, where many famous people sat. The tour guide couldn’t recall exactly which seat Tom Hanks sat in when he came to check things out for Apollo 13. Rats.

Check out those ancient computers!
Check out those ancient computers!

Katy wanted to find her position but we told her mission scientist probably didn’t exist then.

There was a display of mission patches. I loved this one.
There was a display of mission patches. I loved this one.

Both tours include a visit to the rocket park. Katy was a little bored. I told Heath she’s probably at the point where rocket looks an awful lot like another!

Katy by the Saturn V. Whatever those are (thrusters?) there are five of them. If you've never seen a Saturn V, there's just no words for how big it is.
Katy by the Saturn V. Whatever those are (thrusters?) there are five of them. If you’ve never seen a Saturn V, there’s just no words for how big it is.

This on the JSC property. Cows and rockets, nowhere else but Houston, Texas. They should put that on a t-shirt. This is the NASA Longhorn Project and seventh graders in the Clear Creek ISD have this project their science class.

Moo
Moo

The other tram tour is normally of the astronaut training area but we saw something else instead. We found out later they are re-arranging the training area and the catwalk is blocked. So we saw SAIL and SES instead — Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory and Shuttle Engineering Simulation.

Mockup of the shuttle cockpit for the SES
Mockup of the shuttle cockpit for the SES

While on the tram we passed by Building 17 where the Orion mission is headquartered. Maybe this is where Katy will be working one day.

Home of Orion
Home of Orion
Painting of Orion
Painting of Orion

Other than the tours we saw all the exhibits, heard a presentation on life on the ISS and watched three movies. One was about the shuttle program and I’ve forgotten what the other two were. Here’s a few interesting shots:

For my Star Trek friends.
For my Star Trek friends.
Actually making a meal out of it is something else entirely
Actually making a meal out of it is something else entirely
Katy in mission control giving commands to Heath in the whatever he's in.
Katy in mission control giving commands to Heath in space
Ready to go
Ready to go
In case you're wanting to go
In case you’re wanting to go
Shuttle carrier aircraft
Shuttle carrier aircraft
Space shuttle Explorer, renamed Independence. This is a mock-up used for training. They are going to put the shuttle on the plane sometime in August and the shuttle will eventually be set up for people to walk through.
Space shuttle Explorer, renamed Independence. This is a mock-up used for training. They are going to put the shuttle on the plane sometime in August and the shuttle will eventually be set up for people to walk through.

Next stop … Mississippi

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