We had to drive back out to the airport to swap out the rental car due to a flat on the rental car. We were headed out to the gunbloggerpolloza and took some road damage in a construction zone. A piece of rebar or something punctured the sidewall,
It was noon-ish by the time the new rental was squared away. Rather than head back into town to fight traffic, exploitative parking fees and gridlock in the aisles, we chose to visit NASA Johnson Space Center and take a tour.
I looked up JSC on the web the night before. The tour is normally $22.99 but if you book online they knock $5 off each ticket. We swung by a nearby McD's to use their free wi-fi (from the parking lot). Less than 5 minutes later (while the SCQueen scored some much needed nourishment) the passes were stored on my tablet*.
We selected the blue tour which visited the Apollo era control center and "rocket city". The control room tour was far more popular than the astronaut training facility by a factor of at least 10:1 maybe 20:1.
The control center was something to check off my "To Do This Life" checklist. I'm glad we took the tour as being there brings more to the subject than reading about it in a book or on the computer. For example, history books generally don't mention it's on the third floor with an 87 stair steps to reach from the ground floor. I'm glad we spent the time and $$$ to do it.
But it's amazing to see how far NASA has fallen. The first YGBSM moment hit us waiting in line for the tram out to the comtrol room. Some hip new rapper performed a NASA rap apparently on-site, and accompanied with dancers decked out in NASA logo'd apparel.
|From the monitors in the tram line area|
Rocket city: consisted of 1 Saturn V rocket and one other rocket test vehicle. The Saturn V is on it's side but at least now it's covered where it sat outside unprotected, corroding back to base elements. Two engines (one an F-1 monster), and a tunnel used to take the astronauts from the gantry too the capsule. Compared to other "Rocket Cities" (Orlando, Dayton, Smithsonian), this is more like a "Rocket Ghost Town". Without the Saturn V, we wouldn't have even stepped off the tram.
The visitor center has a few historical items: Space suits throughout the years, Pictures of every flight crew the from the first manned Gemini mission to the last Shuttle flight, and a Shuttle mockup again for that 1st hand experience. Also there is an exhibit documenting Felix Baumgartner's leap from ~120k ft. There is a capsule here but it is not clear if this is the actual capsule or a replica/mockup.
The rest is a space themed kiddie park & souvenir shop. An "Angry Birds" themed Habitrail playset occupied a quarter of the space. Flight simulators and other pay-to-play rides took a bunch more space. And there is not one, but two souvenir shops. Calling tourguides "cast members" completed the Disney-fication of NASA" I am so disappointed.
Is this what NASA is reduced to? Trying to appeal to a younger demographic that has no meaningful recollection of America flying space missions? What is your mission these days? "Castmembers" wore jumpsuits with Project Orion shoulderpatches. Ok, what is Orion? We didn't see anything in the visitor center to explain. Click the link if you're interested.
Mission control was worth the trip. The rest... This isn't the NASA I remember.
* my Tablet is a Nexus-7 with only wi-fi connectivity, by choice. I do not need another phone bill.