Sunday, April 24, 2011


The kids had Good Friday off from school so we decided to take a mini family vacation.  It seemed a bit strange to go to Houston without seeing the Van Dukers, but they are off on their adventures in Papua New Guinea.

We drove to Houston Thursday night hoping the small people would fall asleep in the car- it didn't work.  Fortunately they were pretty good travelers.

Friday we went to the NASA space center.

This was Melissa and Isaac's favorite part- a massive jungle gym right by the front entrance.  

 Isaac loved the ball zone. He had fun sending the balls up pneumatic tubes and then having the balls rain down on top of everyone.  

We took a tour of the astronaut training facility where we saw the mockups that the astronauts use to practice their missions.

 Future lunar robots

Future moon rover

 Pretty Texas wildflowers outside one of the buildings

Matthew's primary request was to see the moon rocks, so we couldn't leave without checking those out!

 Space capsule from one of the Apollo missions

Matthew also had a chance to meet an astronaut and hear him speak about what it is like in space.  (And it was free!)
(Picture that Matthew received at the end of the presentation)

Colonel Michael Bloomfield piloted 2 missions and was commander of a third.  He described accelerating to Mach 25 (the speed needed to break free of Earth's atmosphere and remain in space), the two years of training required to master the more than 1,000 switches used as a pilot, working inside and out of the space station, and viewing Earth down below.  He was an engaging speaker, and Matthew's favorite part was his descriptions of eating and drinking in space.  Water molecules tend to form a ball in space making it ideal for all kinds of entertainment.  Col Bloomfield described shooting M&Ms at water at different speeds to see what would happen (all in the name of science of course!).  If you shoot it gently the M&M will stick to the outside of the ball of water.  Toss it a little harder and it will float in the middle of the water.  Chuck that M&M with all the force you can muster and it will shoot through the water and fly out the other side with a spray of water droplets.  Floating goldfish crackers in water spheres to make "aquariums" was another pastime of bored astronauts as was blowing air bubbles into the water with a straw.  Matthew laughed and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation.

We spent half a day there and saw maybe 1/10 of things to see and do.  It would have taken several days to take in everything.  We certainly did enjoy the trip and would recommend it to anyone visiting Houston.

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