Train to be an Astronaut

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Thursday, November 11, 2010

              Houston is the largest city in Texas – the only state that allows its residents to vote from space.  Second to New York in the number of Fortune 500 companies within its city limits, this city offers tourists some sites that are out of this world.  During your visit, be sure to take in an Astor's game at Minute Maid Stadium, pet a stingray at the Downtown Aquarium and train to be an astronaut at the Johnson Space Center.

Minute Maid Stadium

            After 27 months of construction, Minute Maid Stadium was opened for its first game, an exhibition match between the Astros and the New York Yankees in 2000

Originally called Enron Field, when the corporation went bankrupt, in one of the biggest scandals in US history, the rights were bought back and for a brief time it was known as "The Field Formerly Known as Enron".

 In 2002, Minute Maid, a fruit–juice subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company, paid a whopping $107 million for the naming rights in a 28-year sponsorship deal.

There are no bad seats in this 42,000 seat house which also boasts an 18 million pound retractable roof to keep spectators dry on rainy days and cool on hot days.  
                 As a gift to the fans, the owner purchased a huge electric train with the $1.2 million left over from coming in under budget.   The train runs across the back of the field at the start of each game, when a home run is hit, and at the end of a winning game.  There are 63 suites seating up to 18 people which sold for between $96,000 and $130,000 a suite on 1-7 year leases.  The players often buy these suites for their families.  The first level houses the Diamond Club where seats sell for a mere $27,000 per seat, per year, with a 4-seat minimum purchase.  Despite the hefty price, they were sold out before construction was even completed. Located at ground level right behind home base, they are the best seats in the house, closer to the batter's box than even the pitcher.  If you are a celebrity, the owner or a former president of the United States, this is where you should sit. 

Downtown Aquarium
            With over one million gallons of underwater exhibits housing over 500 species of fish and animals, the downtown aquarium has everything from sharks and piranhas to parrots, crocodiles, white tigers and a stingray petting pool. The aquarium’s rainforest theme, which includes rainforest sounds played over loud speakers, set the mood as visitors walk through the trees and foliage checking out the numerous exhibits

Johnson Space Center

The Johnson Space Center is home to the Mission Control Center.  This is where the Space Shuttle missions are monitored and directed from launch in Florida to landing.  Astronauts are trained and the Space Shuttle program is managed by the combined effort of 16 nations.  The Center also houses over 800 pounds of lunar rocks and soil collected during the Apollo program.  Scientists and engineers study human adaptation to space and develop the technologies that allow humans to explore the solar system.

                A mock Canadarm is used to train the astronauts before they go on a mission. The arm, which was first used in 1981 onboard the Columbia, has been used in over 50 shuttle missions to manoeuvre payload on the Space Shuttle.  There were actually a total of five arms built and delivered to NASA including ones used on the Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour space shuttles.  However only three remain in existence since one was lost in the Challenger explosion and the other in the Columbia disaster.

              Following the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the arm’s duties have been extended to include inspections of the space shuttle while in orbit to ensure that even the hard-to-reach areas get regular attention.  Needless to say, the Canadarm has been a source of national pride giving Canada an important role in space exploration.

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