…this is as high as you can get inside Johnson Space Center, being a ‘normal’ visitor. And definitely a tour every Spacetweep needs to take when in Houston.
Why? Well, wait for it and you know! 😉
First of all, it is important to know, that you need to book the tour at least one day in advance – probably because you are entering a goverment facility and they want to know who you are (well in my case they should have already plenty of data 😉 )
Here is the website to visit. The tourprice does include the entry to Houston Space Center (2 days), so don’t make the mistake I did and buy an entry ticket. One thing you might want to consider though is upgrading to a membership for one year, as this not only gives you free parking, but 10% in the gift shop.
OK, enough advertising.
The tour kicks off with a visit to the Rocket Park (route can be in a different order).
Highlight there is the Saturn V part of which were slated to lift-off on Apollo 18. Only three of remaining original harware are left.
One in Huntsville, AL, one at Kennedy Space Center and one here.
Being the Spacetraveller that I am, I have seen Saturn V at KSC numerous times, but this one is at eye level – well, parts of it 🙂
Outside is the test vehicle for the Launch Abort System which luckily had never been used during a launch.
Our next stop was the Sonny Carter Training Facility, better known as the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) or the pool. Not many buildings are named after an individual, but this one is and it is mostly because of Sonny Carter’s achievents and his way too early loss.
Unfortunately for me, it was “Safety Day” in the NBL and no Astros were diving. On the other hand, the water was so calm, one could perfectly see parts of ISS submerged for training.
Personally, I hoped to bump into Alexander Gerst, the next German Astronaut launching to ISS in 2014 (follow this link if you want to see him launching live from Baikonour).
I was wearing my bright blue outfit from the first #Spacetweetup and while Alexander was busy in the robotics lab, my visit didn’t get unnoticed.
After two amazing stops, it was time to grab a bite in one of the cafeterias on campus. We were told, that Astronauts eat here too.
And sure enough, Mike Massimino showed up and gave me a ‘Hi’!
I was too surprised to ask him for a foto and after he had his Sandwich, I found it unfitting to disturb him in his well deserved lunchbreak.
But I mean @Astro_Mike! The very reason why I am on Twitter!
It couldn’t get any better, or can it?
Lunch itself was shared with a nice couple from New Jersey, who happened to be in Houston for a wedding of a relative. Once more, #SpaceUnites!
By the way: Keep your Credit Card tight, as there is another Shop with different Space stuff in the cafeteria.
Next stop was building 9, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility – what a name. Basically this is the classroom for the Astronauts, where they get to know every detail of the Hardware they will be using or that serves as their home during a mission.
I was happy to see, that the Shuttle Mockup was still inside. My wife who happen to take the tour a week later (no kids under 14 allowed) even had the opportunity to climb abord another mockup and sit in the PLT seat!
Barely enough time to soak into the athmosphere, we continued to Building 7, where they develop space suits and other things – very impressive. We even got to see the pressure chamber which is usually off limits to visitors as they don’t want anyone to sneak a look of prototypes – guess nothing important was tested that day.
Much different the next building and final stop of the tour:
Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center!
This is THE room, I have seen countless times on television during briefings, launches and ISS communication and now I was able to walk trough this doors! Crazy!
Last room to visit was the Historic Mission Control. The room has been restored to a condition almost as it was during the Apollo days.
David L. Cisco a Technician from the very program gave us some insights into what happened here back in the days.
Needless to say I could have spend far more time in this building. After seeing Launch Control at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this was probably highest on my wishlist.
With this, a truly remarkable tour ended and left this Spacetweep more then just happy.
Whenever you are taking the tour, please let me know and send some pictures – I’d be more than happy to add them to my blog linking to you.