Monday, October 13, 2008

Space Center Houston!

We are lucky to have a friend in Houston to stay with and visit. Other friends of ours could not go to this because there are still NO hotel rooms or campsites available in the area...the hurricane was only a month ago after all! Even more awesome was that my friend was going with us, pulling her older kids out of school for the awesome day. (It is hysterical to me that their school theme this year is space for the 50th anniversary of the Space Center but they aren't going to the Space Center at all this year?)

The space center was awesome. First we had an adventure getting there of course. The truck started overheating when I was about 30 minutes from our friend's house, and was completely out of antifreeze when I checked. So a ride with the heaters on in 90 degree weather and hoping nothing bad happened. Then I got to learn to add anti-freeze before every trip, since it seemed to be draining out (or really empty). I am very good at opening the hood of the truck now! Next adventure came in downtown Houston. The HOV lane in Houston ends in downtown. (Thank goodness for HOV lanes! We passed so many traffic jams! Houston traffic is awful!) You have to exit to go west on I-10 or go into downtown - and thanks to the lack of signage downtown, we got a little bit lost. Eventually we found our way back onto I-45 and made it to the Space Center.

The first thing the kids saw upon entering the Space Center museum was the GIANT play place. It was three stories of space themed fun! The kids made a mad dash for that play area and were gone within seconds. I saw them briefly if they came down the slides! There were monitors set up outside so parents could see inside on various levels. It looked like a blast and so we sat on the bleachers and waited until the kids were ready to explore the rest of the center. With tons of kiosks full of information and miniature computer games/activities, it wasn't long before the boys emerged, ready to check everything else out.

We learned and tried out many cool things. It was very much a wander around at your own pace, exploring the museum, attending presentations or trying crafts done especially for the day. One of the coolest was the landing a shuttle simulator. It was hard for me! I never succeeded. Dinoguy tried for a while, I know he came close, I don't know if he finished - I went to learn more about life inside a shuttle at a presentation around the corner with Trainboy while he kept trying. Then we went and shot paper rockets with an air compressor. These were the best toy ever! It was basically a paper cylinder with the ends cut into fins and the top taped into a nose, then shot up with a tube on a compressor. Very cool. We checked out some more of the giant planets exhibits and then headed to the make your own robotic arm area.

This consisted of using supplies to make an arm for picking things up. There were examples and a multitude of supplies and we went to it. Then there was an area of "moon rocks" and other objects for the kids to try picking up with their creations. We had a lot of fun there and then took a lunch break. After lunch we got into line for the tram tour. Usually the tram just takes you over to see Saturn 5, an actual rocket that NASA sent into space. For Homeschool day, the tram took you on a longer tour that included driving around campus, seeing a model rocket launch and visiting the training facility where they have full size models of a shuttle and parts of the Space Station that the astronauts use to practice with before going into Space.

After the tram tour, we went into a presentation on the current astronauts in space, and the ones who are headed up on the next mission. It opened with footage from a rocket launch on a big screen and then we moved into a room with a model of mission control and several TV screens. We saw live footage from mission control, images from the space station, and other cool stuff. After that the kids were ready to play again in the play place. This time Trainboy found a cool ball shooter way up on the third level and wasn't coming down. I suspect it was from tiredness. When he finally came down we headed out into the horrible traffic and decided to go find 2 nearby letterboxes first, hoping traffic would improve. They were cool letterboxes in the Challenger memorial park, we had a great time finding them. The boys both fell asleep on the ride back to our friend's house and went to bed earlier than usual for a vacation, probably because they were so tired!

I got to learn some more cake decorating skills for Dinoguy's upcoming birthday party that evening since my friend is an awesome cake decorator. Dinoguy wants to learn too so we'll be eating a lot of practice cake before then! What an awesome trip!


Roni said...

Oh, WOW!! What an amazing experience! I'm so glad that someone from our group was able to go -- now we all know how cool it is. :-)
We'll definitely be going next year!!

Allie said...

Sounds like a fun experience!


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