Sunday 31 October 2010

Day 65 – Actually It Is Rocket Science

This morning I was rudely awoken by the hotel’s fire alarm. Let me tell you, there aren’t many more terrifying ways to be jolted out of a slumber. Luckily it was a false alarm, but it might as well have been an alarm clock as there was no point going back to bed after a fright like that. Welcome to Halloween 2010, I guess!

Our day started out at Houston’s most famous attraction – The NASA Space Center. I don’t pretend to know much about all things science; it’s beyond my comprehension how this universe works, but thankfully there are people out there that do know their stuff and it seems NASA has snapped a lot of these smarty-pants up.
Although the actual layout of the Space Center doesn’t initially appear that big, it turns out to be deceiving as a lot of the things on offer take time to experience. We couldn’t quite figure out how their current medieval Lego exhibit fits with the technology theme though, so we moved onto the tram tour that takes you around the nearby facilities.
The Space Center is a working environment and the tour starts out with a walk above the training area. It amazed me that they allowed people not just to see where the astronauts train for real live missions, but also take pictures. Surely there was a time this would have been considered classified information!
The equipment they use in training is exactly what they use up in space and they even have ways to duplicate weightlessness by using the same principles that an air hockey table uses. Unfortunately as its Sunday there weren’t any astronauts to thrill us with some ‘moonwalking’ though.
The other main stop on the tour is the Rocket Park. There are a couple of rockets outside that seemed mildly impressive, but then when you head inside you find some mammoth ones. They literally engulf the room. The exhibit side walks you through all the Apollo landings--and I couldn’t help musing that its weird nobody has been to the moon since the 70’s…Joe thinks that scientifically, they don’t need to, but I’m not sure I’m buying it. Do I smell a conspiracy?!
Back at the Space Center, we took in the rest of nerdsville. There’s an interesting presentation where you learn about current missions. It usually includes a live-feed of the International Space Station, but they were doing work on the feed today so we got live-feed of an empty swimming pool instead. Hurumph! We did learn that no shuttles have ever been launched from Houston…or anywhere other than Florida. They like to launch and land everything there as it saves them billions to do so. They do train for EVERY mission in Houston though – and it’s where the ‘Mission Control’ rooms are.
Education done, we hit the road and left Houston in our dust. On the way out of town we discovered they like their big statues--as we passed some presidents and then Sam Houston (for whom the cities is named). Everything really is bigger in Texas! This was especially obvious when we sailed past Dallas and its ridiculous freeway system; I’ve been on less exciting rollercoasters!
As the sun was setting, we crossed into state number 45: Oklahoma. I was disappointed not to find a ‘Welcome To’ sign. This means we’ll have to work extra hard when leaving the state to catch it on the way out. Our stop here for the night is at a casino because it seems the options on what to do with your time in Oklahoma is limited. We were worried what kinda joint we were gonna find here after our rural casino brush back on ‘Day 1’ in North Dakota, but Choctaw Casino is a luxury all onto itself…and it’s cheaper than most of the hotels we’ve stayed so far. Bonus! Shame we ran out of gambling money long ago…
So, until tomorrow…

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