TAKING ON THE ‘HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM’ PROBLEM What can a little minor public shaming do in the face of a groundswell of clichéd space-themed Houston references from reporters and observers around the world (and the occasional newscaster from within)? Just in time to chronicle and reflect a seeming barrage of “Gee, no one’s ever repeated this before” references to Houston — as it emerged in the national spotlight in advance of yesterday’s Super Bowl — a Twitter account going by the handle Ugh Houston, created last month, set about to highlight, ridicule, and otherwise express disappointment toward any and all variations on the theme of “Houston, we have a problem.” (The betting circuits even had 5-to-2 odds on whether the tagline, an alteration of the original quotation popularized by the 1995 movie about the Apollo 13 mission, would make an appearance in the Super Bowl broadcast, though ultimately, it appears, it didn’t. and it did.) Other phrases targeted by the account include references to landing eagles and launching anything without an actual rocket engine. Here’s the big question, then, waged in harrumph-y asides, worldwide: Should or shouldn’t Houston embrace its popular association with extreme difficulty?Image: Ugh Houston Twitter account
This week’s SpaceCom expo at the prettied-up George R. Brown Convention Center included a preview of some more down-to-earth plans for the immediate neighborhood — including the NASA-themed drop tower Mars mission ride to be installed for Super Bowl visitors at Discovery Green across the street. The ride, called Future Flight, will include virtual reality goggles; the rest of the setup will include a chance to try out the goggles for people who like virtual reality but don’t want to take the plunge, as well as some exhibits of next-gen space hardware and some kid-geared activities.
The ride’ll be free — if you can get a spot. Chris Baldwin points out that about a million people are expected to show up at the pre-Super Bowl festival planned for the week before the game, but timeslots on the ride will be limited to a few thousand per day between January 28 and February 5 (and the details on how to get a spot aren’t out yet).
Sure, drone footage is great. But how often do you get to see 3 flying laboratories survey the breadth of Houston’s sprawl from this high up?
The trio of WB-57s shown surveying a hazy Houston in the video above are based at Ellington Field. The fleet is part of NASA’s WB-57 High Altitude Research Program, which regularly conducts scientific research and testing. Among its missions: mapping, collection of cosmic dust, support of rocket launches, and flights over hurricanes, including recent storms Joaquin and Patricia. Eerie faded-Emerald-City scenes of Downtown, the Galleria, the Med Center, and other vertical standouts unfold beneath the wingtips. The flight, which took place before Thanksgiving (but for which footage was only posted to YouTube this week) marks the first time since the early 1970s that 3 WB-57s have flown together.
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
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.
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
CNET’s Daniel Terdiman takes a tour of the Johnson Space Center and comes back with some photos of equipment and facilities being developed for Constellation, the back-to-the-moon project scheduled to begin launching in 2013. (The Space Shuttle program will be phased out by 2010.)
For those of us interested in the latest in Houston interiors technology, Terdiman includes photos of a mockup of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, meant to take the next generation of astronauts to the moon and beyond. Is that a strip of velcro on the wall on the right? Cool!
Doesn’t look so exciting to you? Hey, they’ve got 5 years to work on it!
After the jump: The Orion capsule mockup from the outside, plus the new 12-wheeler parked outside!