By Shilpa Bapna
Houston the space city
Houston received it official nickname as Space City because it is home to National Aeronautics and Space administration‘s (NASA) manned spacecraft center. This shows the city’s global importance in space exploration and its historical role as a prominent center of activity.
In fact, the first words transmitted by Neil Armstrong from the moon, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”, are written in 15 languages on bronze plaques placed along the main entrance of Tranquility Park in downtown Houston.
Houston has been home to many astronauts. Timber Cove a suburb in Houston is also known as the moon-walker’s suburb. Communities of astronauts have resided in the Timber Cove neighborhood since the coming of the space center. One can even cross paths with them if one visits the Clear Lake area. The likes of Jim Lovell (Apollo 13), Gus Grissom (Apollo 1), Wally Shirra, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter (mercury astronaut) and Peter Conrad – the third man who walked on the moon have lived here.
The Space Center
The Space center is Houston’s top attraction for international visitors, the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space centre and the only Smithsonian affiliate in greater Houston area. It has a 250,000 square foot education complex and currently hosts 1 million visitors annually.
- Education at the Space Center
The education programs are based on national science standards and focus on STEM to help adults and children think critically. The space center holds interesting exhibits, conducts interactive workshops and day camps that educate children on the past, present and future of the America’s space flight program.
One can also enjoy the following educational activities:
- Field Trips: Explore more than 400 activities and exhibits. The collection of space suits, multiple flown spacecraft, a real moon rock and the independence plaza can leave kids and parents awestruck. There is so much to learn and what better way than to experience these things live with your friends and family.
- Day Camps: The Space center offers diverse collection of age appropriate children’s programs during vacations. The camps include live experiments, educational and awareness programs with a lot of fun activities thrown in. There is an interesting program called Astronaut training wherein the kids actually get to experience how astronauts eat, sleep and drink.
Space Center U Program: A unique 5 day program where kids get a taste of space exploration and chance to have a direct interaction with NASA experts, learn rocket science and develop skills like critical thinking and creativity
- Meet an Astronaut: You can actually meet an astronaut and hear them talk about “out of the world” literally!! Experiences. You can even plan lunch together.
- Astronaut Gallery: Has the world’s most comprehensive collection of space suits including the one worn by John Young on the first shuttle flight and by Judy Resnik the first female astronaut. The astronaut gallery also has the special Gallery Wall which is adorned with photos of every United States Astronaut who has flown.
- Tram Tour: The Tram tour at the space center is very popular. It is a brilliant opportunity to explore the space center where astronauts train and prepare for missions.
- Kennedy Podium: A reminder that a mission impossible was made possible. Donated to Space Center Houston by Rice University, this podium is where Kennedy delivered his speech and announced his intention to go to the moon. One can actually feel the spirit of hope and exploration that the podium is a symbol of.
Houston has a lot to offer as far as space exploration is concerned. Your child can adapt early and also take up short courses/workshops that are held from time to time. There are camps held during summer which teach children the basics of aeronautics and robotics.
Some brilliant summer camps with relevance to space exploration that kids can enjoy at Houston. They are for all age groups.
- Summer Camp – Robotics and Science Academy
A fun and easy introductory camp especially designed for 5 and 6 year olds. The campers build 1-2 robotic models through which they explore mechanical use of motors, gears, pulleys, axels and more. They also learn how to program little robots. An exciting camp which is enjoyed by all kids. The participants also add creativity to the models and program them to move, feel and make sounds. Check it out.
More summer camps details across age groups can be found by clicking here.
The Astronauts, the Space Center attractions, the educational activities and the various space summer camps indeed make Houston the “Space City” it is so fondly called. When it comes to space exploration what is it that you’d like to experience first? Do you think Houston is truly the Ace of Space? Do post your comments.