Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Clear Lake, Houston, TX - March 16 & 17, 2013

This past weekend I got a small taste of the Lone Star State.  It was for business, so most of the time was spent setting up and participating in meetings, inside conference rooms, but we got a few little tastes of what the area had to offer.

The most prominent thing to take in if you find yourself in the Clear Lake area is Space Center Houston and the Johnson Space Center.  Our group got a bit of time to tour around each.  You could spend hours in each, of course, but we had very little free time, so I can only mention my top pick to see at each, because that is all I had time to see ;)

At Space Center Houston the moon rock display should not be missed.  Now, they don't look like anything special when you see them. No eerie green alien glow.  In fact, they look mostly like a granite chunk you could find anywhere in the Sierra Nevadas, and maybe that is what makes them more intriguing.  Just knowing they came from the moon, and seeing that they don't look all that different from earth rocks, was rather fascinating to me.

At the Johnson Space Center there are two things that shouldn't be skipped in my opinion.  We took the tram tour (highly recommend it) and from that we got to see both the preserved mission control room and the Saturn V.  Mission control was my favorite of the two, just from knowing and seeing old footage of historic launches and the Apollo missions, and understanding the critical decision moments that took place in that room.  The iconic "Houston, we have a problem" recollection and "the Eagle has landed" prompted a discussion among our group about "patriotic moments" in our history.  You know, those moments in our past in which Americans simultaneously felt an emotional upwelling that unified the country under the banner of all being from the US of A.  We pondered over when the next such moment would be.  Landing on the moon was one, but so many of those 'moments' are often centered around a tragedy (Pearl Harbor, 9/11, etc.) and we wondered if we'd ever have such a 'moment' centered around something to be celebrated, like landing on the moon was in the 1960s.

Waxing philosophical there...but the Saturn V is impressive to see.  The size alone is a haunting reminder of our own smallness in relation to the cosmos.  The rocket was apparently slated for the Apollo 18 mission, which was canceled, so it never went to space.  Another interesting thing to note, is that all of the rocket save a small pod does not return to Earth after a mission, which rendered me think of all that material and so little of it ever returns.  

My favorite part of the weekend, however, was a short 25 minute walk I took around the water's edge of Clear Lake. Nothing special, just some residential housing and a board walk, but it had small tastes of the aged-South, and gave me that warm Americana feeling.  Each state is truly so different in this country, giving the excitement of experiencing a different country without actually leaving our nation's borders.