So the storm raged on all of Sunday night resulting in a slightly cooler day Monday and thankfully a better day for my hayfever! The agenda for Monday was to venture to Space Centre Houston. We were going to explore the world of space and see where the mission control centre was! It was going to be a good day! 

As you enter the space centre you’re greeted by several different exhibitions ranging from the international space station, mars, living in space to angry birds in space. We had a little wander around before heading to our tram tour to NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, named after the Texan native President Lyndon B Johnson who succeeded JFK after his assassination in 1963. The tram tour was to take us to the historic Mission Control Centre. From this Control Centre, NASA had monitored 9 Gemini and all of the Apollo missions. It was from this room, in fact this box, the words “Houston, the eagle has landed” were heard. It was incredible to see! There were no mouses or keyboards in the room and the units were predominantly data collectors. There were computers in this room once, all of which held 9MB of data…combined. 

The third seat from the left is where Queen Elizabeth visited in 1991 for a space shuttle mission launch! Within the room they had a ‘mission accomplished’ wall which had the patches identical to the ones the astronauts wore on their suits. There is also an American flag. This is the flag that the crew of Apollo 11 planted on the moon back in 1969, took some pictures then brought it back to Earth and presented it to the people in this Mission Control Centre! The actual flag! It has been in this room ever since that day!Also located in Building 30, also known as Christopher C Kraft Jr Mission Control, is where NASA monitors the crew aboard the International Space Station. It is monitored 24/7 in case the crew need anything! Space exploration is such an exciting prospect. Across this campus they also have a Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL) where they use flight simulators for training. The space simulator in here was used for the 135 space missions. Also there is the Space Vehicle Mock-Up Facility (SVMF) where future crews train for their endeavour on the International Space Station. It is eight stories high and two football fields long! Every astronaut who has entered space since 1980 has trained in this facility! 

The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) is where they simulate weightlessness as they would during space flight. The water contains full size mock-ups of the International Space Station along with other space vehicles, where astronauts carry out repairs in an environment similar to space. The Space Environment Simulation Laboratory (SESL) holds two massive vacuum chambers that simulate the conditions of space. Within the chambers are complete spacecraft or components that are subjected to a space-like vacuum and temperatures ranging from 280 degrees below zero to 260 degrees above! It was built to test the Apollo command and service modules as well as spacesuits and other scientific elements they would have in space!

On our way back to the Space Centre we stopped at Rocket Park. As you enter you’re greeted by Little Joe II series rockets which were used to test the Launch Escape System. This rocket was test flown on May 19th 1965. The Mercury Redstone rocket was used by astronauts Alan B Shepard and Gus Grissom in sub orbital flights. 

Fun facts:

  • Shepard was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1962 on the first US manned space flight! His flight lasted 15 minutes and he went 116 miles into space. 
  • The first US orbit of Earth occurred a year later by John H Glenn and he orbited Earth three times! 
  • The first US spacewalk occurred in 1965 during Gemini 4 mission by Edward H White.
  • The Gemini program astronauts beginning in 1964 logged 2000 hours in space.
  • Apollo 15 explored the lunar surface riding the first Lunar Rover Vehicle and spent 67 hours on the moon!
  • Apollo 17 carried the first civilian to the moon. This was the last Apollo mission.
  • The International Space Station is the second brightest object in the night sky. The first is the moon.

Inside the huge container was the massive Saturn V rocket. It stood 363 feet high and weighed 6 million pounds! It is the largest and most powerful rocket ever made in the US! It is also one of three vehicles to have survived the Apollo years of the 1960s and early 1970s. It was first tested in 1967 during Apollo 4 unmanned mission. It successfully accomplished the restart in orbit capability. 

We entered back into the space centre and went into the Mission Briefing Room. Retired astronaut, Kenneth D Cameron was giving an account of his time as an astronaut paired with pictures! He has logged 561 hours in space and piloted STS-37 Atlantis, with the purpose of exploring gamma rays in the universe, as well as serving as commander on STS-56 Discovery, conducting experiments on the effect of solar activity on Earths climate and environment, and STS-74 Atlantis. It was incredibly interesting to hear his account of his missions. He was the pilot and responsible for docking on the Mir (Russian space station) as part of his mission on STS-74 Atlantis where they were the first crew to assemble a module and attach it to a space station. Part of their job was to collect specimens such as blood and urine from the astronauts living up there for 6 months at a time and bring them back to the doctors on Earth so they could see if long periods of time in space had any adverse affects on the human body. Cameron suggested packing the freezer they were to take up, with ice cream to keep it at a cool minus 17. This actually happened and when they reached the Russians, they shared a meal of ice cream! Not astrounat ice cream either, proper Texan ice cream from Earth! The International Space Station is travelling at 17500mph and orbits the Earth every 90 minutes. Those living on the ISS experience 16 sunrises in 24 hours. It took 16 nations to build it and they never build a replica before it was assembled in space! Shuttles launch off the East coast of Florida at Cape Canaveral. Two reasons for this. One, safety. They launch over water for the safety of people living in the area. Two. It gives the shuttle an extra boost from the Earths spin on its axis. 

We then got to go inside Independence on board the real Boeing used to transport it!CockpitThere was also a gallery of the astronauts from all the missions since 1961. First mission 1961Tim Peake features in the above two photos. Some of you might recognise Mike Massimino from his cameo in The Big Bang Theory!This is the Apollo 17 command module. It carried the last two men to set foot on the moon back to Earth.This rock was brought back to Earth by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972. This is one of only eight lunar rocks in the world we as the public are able to touch. It is 3.8 billion years old! Once we had explored all the exhibits at Space centre Houston, we began our travels toward San Antonio. It seemed to be the most touristy place in Texas we had visited. Parking was easy and cheap which was a bonus! The aim was to visit The Alamo. A pivotal event in the Texan revolution in 1836. Mexican troops launched an assault on the Alamo mission killing all the defenders. Fuelled with revenge the Texan army defeated the Mexicans a month later in the battle of San Jacinto in April 1836.This is the oldest wall in San Antonio, part of the original Alamo. The buildings in San Antonio were artistic and grand as seen above. It felt like we were just tourists casually exploring the town with music in the background, the sound of people getting a fright at Ripley’s believe it or not and the chit chat of people sitting on the walls talking. It was a delightful place. We were heading an hour east of San Antonio to our motel in Fredericksburg. When we arrived we were treated to a nice little home of our own for the night equipped with chairs on the decking and a BBQ pit. It was beautiful and old. We were even greeted inside by this…It was a proper little cute self catering apartment! We spent the evening watching Fast Five and realising just how far off our itinerary we were yet we still didn’t come up with a new one! We fell asleep but realised we liked the place so much that we would stay another night. On Tuesday morning I asked if we could stay in the same apartment and we could. About 10 minutes before breakfast finished Mathan decided he wanted some so we headed in for toast and tea and I also picked up some vineyard tour leaflets. We opted for Topgolf! I can safely say it was one of the most fun yet challenging thing I have ever done. We just turned up booked our section on the second floor and began hitting balls not knowing which club did what and we also didn’t realise they had men’s and women’s clubs.Needless to say, Nathan picked it up quickly whilst I sat there googling how to hit a golf ball. The only help they really give you is that it’s all in the hips and the more tense you are the further away from the target you’ll hit. What they fail to tell you is that the more wrong you hold the club will result in an epic blister after only hitting 60 balls!! What didn’t help is we had a five year old and an 80 year old next to us hitting better than me!! I don’t think I have ever felt the muscles?? in my arms and back work and ache so much! If it wasn’t muscles then something ached!We did manage to figure out that the clubs were representing the colour target to hit the ball in…that didn’t necessarily mean that they worked!! In the end I just used the driver and hoped for the best! I think my max score was 34 to Nathan’s 107. Disappointing I know😔. They have interactive screens as well as a waitress designated to your section who brings you drinks and food as well as being able to extend your time by fifteen minutes to an hour. We extended our time to three hours in the end we were enjoying it that much! Then the storm came for the fourth day in a row! I mean there’s nothing quite like ‘hitting’ and I use that term loosely in terms of my performance, out into the stormy abyss accompanied by thunder and lightning! Our game came to an end and we had to run to the car. We were soaked through to our underwear!After a brief stint at a department outlet we headed back to our apartment armed with dominos and an early night on the cards. After rinsing off a plate we found we had a pet…trying to collect him to get him back outside proved a mission which took the best part of half an hour and we still have no idea how he got in?!We truly did enjoy our time at Peach Tree Inn and Suites but our time had come to and end. We were awake at eight in the morning and heading back to San Antonio on Wednesday morning. As we were driving I found out the reason why…Nathan had booked me a Beluga whale interaction at Seaworld! I was like an excitable child I was so happy! The best early birthday present! To anyone going to Seaworld San Antonio, I highly recommend it. It is a two hour experience from start to end. First they fit you up with a wet suit and shoes. Then you have orientation where they tell you about the whale and what we can do to help preserve their habitat.It was truly an amazing experience. The fact I got to touch and interact with this beautiful animal was just a dream. The trainers are fantastic and answer any questions you might have, as well as being patient taking you through the different interactions with the whales. We were lucky enough to interact with two and even when you’re waiting for instructions, they come right up to you. It is hard not to just reach out and touch them. I truly found these animals enchanting and playful and there was even a nine month old baby beluga whale in the vicinityThey aren’t born white. They are grey in order to camouflage in the shadows of their mum whilst feeding and the pod whilst interacting with the rest of the pod. I think I have found my new job!! 😍😍

Our aim of the day was to get to Carlsbad, New Mexico which was a six hour drive! I wrote postcards and letters, we filled up twice and eventually reached our hotel. It had a pool and laundry. The only time we had actually planned on using the pool in the five weeks we have been away, and it was closed for reconstruction! Luckily we could use the pool at the sister hotel down the road so we went there. The downside was that we got locked in the pool area because the receptionist didn’t give us a key or towels, but the jacuzzi and pool were so warm and welcoming from the storm brewing outside. It seems we are destined for stormy weather! The last job for the day was laundry. It was my job as Nathan did it last time. For a half hour wash and half hour dry it was two dollars! Cheap as chips! I couldn’t stay in the room as it was too hot so once it was all done I emptied it on to the bed and sorted it out. We hadn’t done laundry in two weeKs and it was only then we realised. Never mind you can always buy socks and underwear.

Until next time…