The Saturn V rocket originally planned to boost a never-happened Apollo 18 spaceflight has been lying on its side near the corner of Saturn Ln. and 2nd St. and aimed at Lake Jackson since 1977. An air-conditioned, metal-framed structure was built around the Smithsonian-owned hulk 10 years ago to protect it from the elements, but it makes it difficult for visitors to appreciate just how hulking the rocket is. And recently the new structure has begun to look a bit dilapidated as well. Unprompted by any government agency or basketball team, San Antonio architect Brantley Hightower has been floating a proposal to wrap a more permanent structure around Houston’s most prominent rocketship — one that would restore the drive-by view of its full length (above) that the existing enclosure ruined, and make it clear just how big the Saturn V was:
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The homes depicted in the teevee version of The Astronaut Wives Club may turn out to be a bit more landlocked than the actual Space Age family spreads they’re modeled after. Location scouts for the upcoming ABC mini-series, which will be based on the book by Lily Koppel, appear to be steering clear of the actual Clear Lake-area neighborhoods the original 7 astronaut families lived in — and pushing west instead. Real estate agent Robert Searcy tells Swamplot the location scouts who contacted him were looking for a neighborhood with original-looking mid-fifties-era houses. So he passed info around to owners he knew about, letting them decide if they wanted to open up their homes to teevee crews: “They also contacted Houston Mod,” Searcy says:
“Apparently [the site scouts] are most interested in what they loosely described as ‘mid-range’ homes of the era, not updated. I got them in a few houses in Glenbrook Valley and a couple in Meadowcreek Village, including the Mackie & Kamrath one over there, but I think some of the mods were a bit too grand for what they are looking for. They seem to be most focused on Willowbend right now. So if you live in Willowbend in a non-updated house, don’t be shocked if you get a note on your door!”
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From Timber Cove to Willowbend
Tweeting from low Earth orbit on board the International Space Station, NASA astronaut and Clear Lake City resident Rick Mastracchio sends out this spiderweb-like nighttime image he snapped of Houston. What’s that bright spot in the section in the lower right? “Think I left my lights on!” he writes.
Photo: Rick Mastracchio
Photographic Signs of Intelligent Nightlife
RICK’S CABARET REVEALS PLANS FOR REVEALING RESTAURANT NEAR JOHNSON SPACE CENTER The owners of that family of strip clubs, Rick’s Cabaret, plan to build a new restaurant called Bombshells in Webster near the Johnson Space Center. The pun-intended eatery appears to bring together army surplus and boobs; this would be its second location; the original, shown here, can be found up in Dallas. Culturemap’s Tyler Rudick reasons out how Rick’s chose the new suburban spot: “With both Bone Daddy’s and Twin Peaks thriving in Webster, Rick’s Cabaret president Eric Langan explains . . . that the area was a logical choice.” [Culturemap; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Bombshells at 7501 N. Stemmons Fwy.: Facebook
SPACE CENTER HOUSTON’S NEWEST ACQUISITION The Galileo 7 — shown here in a Star Trek episode as piloted by
Dr. Mr. Spock on a doomed exploratory voyage to Taurus — is going to be added to the permanent collection at Space Center Houston in Clear Lake. A stand-in, maybe, for the real retired NASA orbiter that the center didn’t get a few years ago, this teevee spacecraft will be kept separate from “actual flown vehicles,” spokesperson Jack Moore tells Hair Balls. But that doesn’t mean it won’t have its own special effect: “Houstonians and other visitors will be able to see the Galileo at Space Center Houston’s Zero-G Diner, where, Moore says, the area’s overall theme is developing more of a science fiction atmosphere.” [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot] Image: Memory Alpha
DEEP INSIDE MISSION CONTROL At last, that in-depth, exhaustive tour through the Johnson Space Center’s Building 30 that you’d been waiting for — coffee bars and tiny women’s rooms included: “The corridors look like they should exude the odor of decades of cigarette smoke,” space-travel fan Lee Hutchinson writes, “but the federal government’s ‘no smoking’ policy has been in place long enough that most smell faintly of stale coffee instead.” Bonus: Every console in Apollo-era Mission Control explained — or close enough. [Ars Technica] Photo: Steven Michael
HOUSTON’S WAREHOUSED ROCKETSHIP Comparing it to displays of Saturn rockets in Florida and Alabama, space historian Dwayne Day finds Space Center Houston’s model of the Apollo program leftover parked in a Johnson Space Center shed structure and looking somewhat forlorn: “. . . the building containing the Saturn V is starting to deteriorate. Interior insulation is starting to crack and peel, showing considerable degradation from my last visit a year ago. This simply reinforces the impression that the Saturn V is being stored in a big garage. Houston has had the Saturn V for decades. It has housed it indoors for almost seven years, and yet the city has not improved the presentation or shown any indication that it intends to display the Saturn V with any of the affection and intelligence that the Kennedy and Huntsville communities have given to their Saturn Vs. If you look at what Houston has done it is hard not to wonder if they would have treated a shuttle orbiter with the same indifference.” [Space Review; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Dwayne Day
COMMENT OF THE DAY: JUST TO DRAG A SHUTTLE MOCKUP INTO HOUSTON “. . . I contacted the JSC’s PAO Office and found out that it was originally due here on March 10th but an area from the channel to JSC’s dock would have to be dredged in order to accommodate the tug pushing the barge. Current estimates have pushed the delivery time to some time in July. . . . I feel that the mock-up coming to JSC is a ray of hope on an otherwise bleak future. . . .” [Neal_K, commenting on Space Center Houston Getting KSC Space Shuttle Mockup Hand-Me-Down, Compartment Trainer, New Building]
Houston may have missed out on its opportunity to play host to one of the 4 retired orbiters doled out recently by NASA. But it will end up with a space-shuttle-related attraction that jibes well with the Johnson Space Center’s longtime role as a practice and simulation site for training astronauts. Space news website CollectSpace is reporting that Space Center Houston will soon receive the Space Shuttle Explorer, a full-size orbiter mockup currently on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
One advantage of the Explorer over the 4 orbiters Houstonians wanted but couldn’t get (besides not having any layers of space dust to clean off): Visitors will be able to walk through it.
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A ROCKETSHIP RELAUNCH FOR THE JOHNSON SPACE CENTER? Construction of the new Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the first new NASA spacecraft built for manned orbit since 1991, began earlier this week — in New Orleans (photo). And final assembly will take place in Florida. But a “senior administration official” tells space-beat reporter Todd Halvorson that the new 30-story tall Space Launch System for Orion that NASA is announcing today — with the strong support of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison — will provide a “stable future” for Houston’s Johnson Space Center and 3 other human-space-flight facilities around the country. [Florida Today; NASA] Photo: NASA
COMMENT OF THE DAY: TOURISM, THE FINAL FRONTIER “Let’s face it, if you’ve ever been to Space Center Houston, it’s mostly geared towards elementary school field trips. It wasn’t til just a few years ago, one of the *real* crown jewels of America’s leftover space hardware, a complete friggin Saturn V, was even given a roof to protect it from the elements for posterity. I love NASA and remember being able to run around all over the campus with nary a locked door as a kid, but JSC simply hasn’t kept up with being a top toursist destination, domestically or internationally. Much like other ‘attractions’ in Houston, people see them incidentally when here visiting relatives or on business, they’re not destinations in themselves. I swear I think more people come down 45 and 59 from other states to see Galveston than Houston. Maybe we need to build that giant dome over the Loop after all to get some tourist cred.” [SL, commenting on Why No Shuttle for Houston? Because Space Center Houston Isn’t So Big with the Tourists]
If y’all had come to Space Center Houston, they’d have built a home for a retired space shuttle there. Well, maybe. Today’s report of the NASA inspector general points out a few details in the story of how Houston lost out in the retired-space-shuttle home sweepstakes. At a presentation given to NASA administrator Charles Bolden in November 2009, 4 out of 5 options being considered at the time by the agency’s recommendation team would have given Houston a shuttle. And Bolden says Houston was a sentimental favorite for him, too. He told investigators
that if it had been strictly a personal decision, his preference would have been to place an Orbiter in Houston. He noted that “[a]s a resident of Texas and a person who . . . spent the middle of my Marine Corps career in Houston, I would have loved to have placed an Orbiter in Houston.”
So what happened?
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Among the items of space booty collector and CollectSPACE.com founder Robert Pearlman lays out in the living room of his Houston apartment for a visit from USA Today reporter Donna Leinwand Leger: a 200-lb. aluminum hatch made for the International Space Station, a tile from a space shuttle, a thruster from one of the Gemini missions, and the possibly-still-crunchy pièce de résistance: a small plastic package of toasted bread cubes carried by astronaut Michael Collins on the Apollo 11 flight. The croutons came as a throw-in bonus when Pearlman bought a $100 NASA contractor commemorative medallion on eBay several years back. The unopened package is signed by Collins and Buzz Aldrin. On an episode of PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” 5 years ago, appraiser Gary Piattoni valued the well-traveled condiments at $25,000.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: SPACE SHUTTLE FANS WOULD’VE EATEN IT UP “I’m sorry we won’t be blessed with a shuttle. I was really looking forward to dining at the Rainforest Cafe in the payload bay.” [wilf, commenting on That’ll Show ’Em What a Magnet for Tourists Houston Really Is]
HOUSTON’S SPACE SHUTTLE TRIBUTE — IN PIECES Sure, Houston won’t be the rest home of choice for any of the space shuttles that retired intact, but what about the ones that blew up? Mayor Parker says she now supports a plan being promoted by several family members of Columbia and Challenger astronauts to store recovered remnants of the exploded Columbia orbiter in a large warehouse connected to Space Center Houston. More than 80,000 separate pieces of debris recovered from the 2003 disaster are currently stored in a 16th floor office in the Vehicle Assembly Building of Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Parker tells the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris she thinks an exhibit of burnt and broken shuttle parts here could “create a fitting memorial to those astronauts. Not a tourist attraction, but to really recognize the commitment that Houston and Houstonians have made and the sacrifices they’ve made for space. That is an opportunity.” [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Columbia debris: CollectSpace