Houston we have a problem.

Trip Start Jun 20, 2009
Trip End Aug 03, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Friday, July 3, 2009

Today I visited the Space Center of Houston. I was picked up by a tour guide who served in the Air Force for 26 years and had been all over the world. Also on my tour was an older couple from Georgia who had been to Australia for the Sydney Olympic Games. They agreed that Sydney was best Olympics ever. The Space Center is quite far away and as I was first to be picked up he drove to the Galleria district to the Downtown district and only then to Clear Lake, the home of the Space Center. It took about 45 minutes all up. Traffic was good today as tomorrow is Independence Day.

The Houston Space Center serves as Ground Control for all manned missions once they leave the atmosphere. They are currently in charge of the International Space Station and will take over from Cape Canaveral (Kennedy Space Center) once the Space Shuttle Endeavor reaches Earth orbit on July the 11th. All the unmanned Mars missions are coordinated elsewhere. In addition to being Ground Control, the Houston Space Center is where all Astronauts train. There are facilities that simulate zero gravity such as large water tanks, as well as complex flight simulators. On the tram tour, we were able to see Ground Control, which happened to be on break and Japan was coordinated the ISS at the time. We also saw the outside of the mega water tanks and also the quarantine quarters, where Astronauts come 1 week before they leave on a mission and avoid all human contact. Inside the museums, there were exhibits showing the lunar modules, the rocket engines and the living quarters. In terms of size the living quarters back in 1969 were tiny, in contrast to the immense rockets that were strapped aside them. You really get a sense of just how dangerous each of the Apollo missions were. These days the living quarters are much larger and the rockets more efficient and smaller. As I said earlier, the whole place was buzzing in anticipation for Endeavors launch in 8 days time. The astronauts arrive tomorrow afternoon.

On the way back taking the couple to their hotel they were talking about how they were going to a conference in the evening. As we get closer, we see all this smoke in the distance. It appeared to us that the Convention Centre was on fire! On driving past it looked more like the smoke was coming out the front where the road was so it could have been a bus on fire. All I can say is there was a lot of smoke. I guess I'll have to watch the news to find out what the story was.

Tomorrow is July 4th, Independence Day. There are apparently fireworks in the city, but I am really not sure what will be open etc. I guess I will have to research into that.

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