Houston’s Mission Control Center

NASA Space Suit, Houston

NASA Space Suit, Houston

I had the absolute thrill of a private tour in Houston last month of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  Dr. Catherine “Cady” Coleman, a United States astronaut with three space flight missions, showed us some of the highlights of this impressive American facility.  My favorite part was being in the Mission Control Center, so that is what I will focus on here.

 

A friend of my sister’s, Cady walked our family group of eight through Houston’s Mission Control Center.  Here they manage flight control for the human space program.  The current primary focus is directing activity on the International Space Stations (ISS).

 

NASA Houston, Mission Control Center

NASA Houston, Mission Control Center

Cady led us through a labyrinth of no-nonsense government hallways lined with photos of space teams, the Space Station, and earth.  When she looked at her watch she explained it was nearly 3:00 and the shifts were changing.  This was an important time, she said, because flight controllers on the departing shift were informing the new shift workers about the events of the past few hours, so we paused in the back corner until the shift change was settled.  That was when my writer’s imagination clicked in and my heart sped up; flight engineers talking to astronauts in space, and yet they had a shift change, families at home, Cheerios in the cupboard.

 

A few minutes later we walked onto the main floor.  The commanding visual was the multiple screens at the front:  a large map of the world, complicated graphics, flight patterns in various bright colors.  The room was filled with long rows of computer panels and flight controllers monitoring the ISS.  Each headphoned person sat at a console quietly communicating with space professionals on this planet as well as astronauts in space.  It was all so quiet and subdued.

 

NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman

NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman

A fast-walking and sprightly veteran of the space program, Cady whisked us through more hallways to get to the now defunct Mission Control Center where historical space shuttle missions like Gemini and Apollo were once commandeered.  Our last stop was at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, a warehouse the size of a football field filled with space equipment and simulators.

 

With two flights aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia and an expedition to the International Space Station, Coleman has logged more than 4,330 hours in space.  Personable and enthusiastic, when we climbed into a space shuttle capsule she commented how much easier it was to get around in space without the drag of gravity, yet her nimble and petite body seemed very light and fluid.

 

Coleman discussing the ISS including the robotic arm she operated while there

Coleman discussing the ISS including the robotic arm she operated while there

On a Hollywood note, Cady counseled Sandra Bullock, communicating from the ISS, when Bullock was filming “Gravity.”

 

Inside NASA Space Shuttle console (notice handles for gravity-free holding)

Inside NASA Space Shuttle console (notice handles and blue velcro for gravity-free living)

Countries around the world are not only invested in the same International Space Station, but they are communicating and working together for the sake of these missions regardless of the tension that militarily exists.  It is a remarkable array of dedicated aeronautic professionals paving the way for a better understanding of life outside our planet, while exhibiting cooperative codes of conduct right here on planet Earth.

 

If you are ever in Houston, Texas, set aside a few hours to visit this incredible center of aeronautics where history continues to be shaped.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

NASA Houston Space Vehicle Mockup Facility

NASA Houston Space Vehicle Mockup Facility

 

18 thoughts on “Houston’s Mission Control Center

  1. Jet,Dear ! I’m thrilled and overwhelmed by your visit to one of NASA’s ” Temples ” ! I envy you your chance to experience all these magnificent achievements that wrote more pages in the Space Science book !!! NASA’s Flickr site is one of my favourite contacts and they have me as a contact too,which is a great honour. Have a look at the following link just to get a rough idea what sort of put ups I enjoy and I virtually travel in Space lol …
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasamarshall/
    I don’t know how many times I will read this post of yours,my dear friend ! It’s absolutely compelling and mind-boggling !!! Thank you for this exceptional post !
    Sending love and kind thoughts your way , Doda 🙂 xxx

    • Hi Doda,Thanks so much for the flickr photo links, they are awesome! I will go back to them many times, so much beauty and wonder. I’m glad you liked the post and our visit through Mission Control. It is humbling to see and experience the remarkable dedication of these people in the space program. You are right, we do take these achievements for granted, so it was good to see the work in action, and to be able to share it. It was tricky to right a short post about over half a century of astounding work, so I’m glad you enjoyed it. Many thanks 😀

    • I’m glad you liked the post, RH. And I enjoyed your Curiosity post very much. What a crazy story that is! BTW When I was on the NASA tour I couldn’t get the song “Major Tom” out of my head for weeks, and then just now when I read your post, that song came back again! Good thing I like it so much. Fun info, thanks so much RH. 😀

  2. The recollections as seen through your writer’s eye are fantastic. You make things absolutely come alive…whether they’re rocking wallabies or rocket trajectories. You ROCK, Jet!!!

    • NASA is another world, and it IS very cool…I hope you get a chance to visit there on one of your many travels Brick. Thanks so much for your comment. 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing, Jet! You truly have a great way with words and the photos complete the picture beautifully!

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