Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

Johnson Space Center

Derek, Bryson, Sarah, Jill, and Rick taking our own picture while aboard the NASA Tram Tour

Last month while Jill and I were in Texas we visited NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. Accompanying us were Derek, Sarah, and Bryson. The Center is the hub for human spaceflight activities. There are 100 buildings on 1,620 acres that are home to the U.S. astronaut corps. The Johnson Space Center was originally known as the Manned Spacecraft Center and was constructed on land donated by Rice University. In 1973, the center was renamed after Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States.

Mission Control Center

Johnson Space Center

The Apollo Mission Control Center, now a U.S. National Historic Landmark

We started out our visit at Space Center Houston, the official visitor center for the Johnson Space Center. We procured a place on the guided tram tour with a first stop at the Mission Control Center (MCC). Since 1965 the MCC has been the nerve center for America’s manned space program. The MCC houses several Flight Control Rooms, from which flight controllers coordinate and monitor the spaceflights.

Johnson Space Center

Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, crew of Apollo 11, pictured on the stairs to the MCC

Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility

After the MCC, we visited the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility. The crews for each mission put in up to 100 hours training in this giant building. There are full scale mock-ups for different aspects of the Space Shuttle Orbiter and International Space Station.

Johnson Space Center

Soyuz spacecraft are used for transport to and from the International Space Station.

The Full Fuselage Trainer is a full-scale mock-up of the Shuttle, but without the wings. It has a full sized cargo bay area big enough to hold a bus. The Crew Compartment Trainers allow astronauts to learn how to operate many of the orbiter sub-systems.

Johnson Space Center

Full size shuttle mock-up, minus wings. Sarah's image reflects off the catwalk glass

Rocket Park

Next on the tour was Rocket Park. There are several rockets and rocket engines on display outside the Saturn V building but the most interesting is the Saturn V inside the building. The Saturn V was a multistage liquid-fuel expendable rocket used by NASA’s Apollo and Skylab programs from 1967 until 1973. It remains the largest and most powerful launch vehicle ever brought to operational status from a height, weight and payload standpoint.

Johnson Space Center

Sarah, Bryson, and Derek demonstrate the size of just one of the five Saturn V F-1 engines

Johnson Space Center

The center engine was fixed, while the four outer engines could be gimballed to control the rocket

The Saturn V stood over 363 feet high and weighed over 6 million pounds. It remains the largest and most powerful U.S. expendable launch vehicle ever built. From 1964 until 1973, a total of $6.5 billion ($43.57 billion in current dollars) was appropriated for the Saturn V, with the maximum being in 1966 with $1.2 billion ($8.04 billion in current dollars).

Johnson Space Center

With the Apollo spacecraft on top the Saturn V stood 363 feet tall

Johnson Space Center

Without fins the Saturn V was 33 feet in diameter

Johnson Space Center

Fully fueled the Saturn V had a total mass of 6.5 million pounds (3,000 metric tons)


After disembarking from the tram we watched the film “On Human Destiny” in the Destiny Theater. After that we looked in on the Starship Gallery to see such things as the Lunar Module replica, the actual Gemini V capsule, and the last flown Mercury Capsule. I was most interested in the Apollo program and the Lunar Rover Trainer used to prepare astronauts for the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions.

Johnson Space Center

Lunar Rover Trainer

Three alkaline fuel cells were used to power the Apollo command module during the missions to the Moon. By combining hydrogen and oxygen, the fuel cells provide power and water to the spacecraft. After an oxygen tank explosion on Apollo 13, only one of the three fuel cells remained operational. With some clever problem solving by Mission Control, the crew was still able to utilize the available power of one fuel cell to return home.

Johnson Space Center

Three of these alkaline fuel cells powered the Apollo command module

The world’s largest public display of Moon rocks are housed in the Lunar Vault where visitors can touch a 3.8 billion-year-old piece of the Moon brought back to Earth by Apollo 17. According to the Houston Chronicle of July 15, 1969:

Space agency officials jubilantly hailed the success of Apollo 11 while a priceless cargo of lunar dust and rocks was flown to the Manned Spacecraft Center today.
One box of Moon rock … contained material from five inches below the surface and other surface samples for a total of about 20 pounds.

Johnson Space Center

Lunar Vault

Johnson Space Center

Jill touching a piece of Moon rock obtained in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow. This rock is basalt, formed by the cooling of molten lava.

Johnson Space Center

Sample of lunar soil. Not your usual Earth dirt.

Space Shuttle

You can climb aboard a full-scale mock-up of the forward section of a space shuttle orbiter. The controls on the flight deck and the equipment on the mid-deck are exact replicas of the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s on her maiden voyage in May 1992.

Johnson Space Center

Full-scale replica of Rick on the flight deck of Endeavour

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Cowboys Stadium Tour

Cowboys Stadium tickets

Sarah has Cowboys Stadium tickets

Why is Sarah smiling? Because she has Cowboys Stadium Tour tickets. One each for Derek and herself and her parents. Bryson gets to go in free. Tours of Cowboys Stadium allow fans behind-the-scenes access to several areas including the Cowboys Locker Room, Cheerleaders Locker Room, Playing Field, Private Clubs, Media Interview Room and other areas.

Cowboys Stadium big screen

The center-hung video display board is the largest high-definition television screen in the world

Cowboys Stadium Jill and Bryson

Jill and Bryson watch the big screen

Cowboys Stadium is a domed stadium with a retractable roof in Arlington, Texas. It serves as the home of the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys. It replaced the partially-covered Texas Stadium, which opened in 1971, and served as the Cowboys’ home through the 2008 season. It was completed on May 27, 2009. The stadium seats 80,000, making it the 3rd largest stadium in the NFL by seating capacity.

Cowboys Stadium football

A football in the ceiling

Cowboys Stadium encouraging words

Some words of encouragement

The stadium is the largest domed stadium in the world, has the world’s largest column-free interior and the largest high definition video screen which hangs from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. The facility can also be used for a variety of other activities outside of its main purpose (professional football) such as concerts, religious ceremonies, basketball games, college football and high school football contests, soccer matches, motorcross races and rodeos similar to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Cowboys Stadium Derek Jill Bryson Sarah

Derek, Jill, Bryson, and Sarah, on their way to visit the private suites

Cowboys Stadium private suite

Derek, Sarah, and Bryson would be enjoying the game in luxury, if there was one

Cowboys Stadium was designed by the Dallas-based architectural firm HKS. Originally estimated to cost $650 million, the stadium’s current construction cost was $1.3 billion, making it one of the most expensive sports venues ever built. To aid Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones in paying the construction costs of the new stadium, Arlington voters approved the increase of the city’s sales tax by 0.5 percent, the hotel occupancy tax by 2 percent, and car rental tax by 5 percent. The City of Arlington provided over $325 million (including interest) in bonds as funding, and Jones covered any cost overruns. Also, the NFL provided the Cowboys with an additional $150 million, as per their policy for giving teams a certain lump sum of money for stadium financing.

Cowboys Stadium Tony Romo locker

Bryson and Derek by Tony Romo's locker

Cowboys Stadium cheerleaders lockers

Bryson at the cheerleaders lockers

A pair of nearly 300 ft-tall arches spans the length of the stadium dome, anchored to the ground at each end. The new stadium also includes more than 3,000 Sony LCD displays throughout the luxury suites, concourses, concession areas and more, offering fans viewing options that extend beyond the action on the field and a center-hung video display board that is the largest high-definition television screen in the world. Glass doors, allowing each end zone to be opened, were designed and constructed by Dallas-based Haley-Greer glass systems.

Cowboys Stadium at the 10

Bryson makes it to the 10

Cowboys Stadium at the end zone

Jill, Bryson, Sarah, Derek, and Rick are in the end zone

The retractable roof was designed by structural engineering firm Walter P Moore and the systems were implemented by mechanization consultants Uni-Systems. These Kinetic Architecture fundamentals will be employed in order to create quick conversions of the facility to accommodate a variety of events. When the design was officially unveiled on December 12, 2006, it showed that, from inside the stadium, the roof will look very similar to the Texas Stadium roof, with its trademark hole. However, it can be covered by the retractable roof panel to protect against the elements.

Cowboys Stadium

Cowboys Stadium

Cowboys Stadium Tom Landry

Tom Landry, head coach 1960 to 1988, career record 270 - 178 - 6, Super Bowl Champions 1971 and 1977

Photos by Rickety. Text by Wikipedia.
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San Jacinto Monument

San Jacinto Monument

San Jacinto Monument

Prior to touring the Battleship Texas we visited the San Jacinto Monument and learned about the Battle of San Jacinto. In the above photograph of the monument, Derek and Bryson are by the minivan, Jill is to the right, and Sarah is gesturing. We rode the elevator to the top of the monument to enjoy the view of the Houston Ship Channel and the USS Texas from 550 feet.

San Jacinto Monument observation windows

San Jacinto Monument observation windows from where we viewed Houston and the USS Texas

The San Jacinto Monument is a 567 foot high column located on the Houston Ship Channel near the city of Deer Park, Texas. The monument is topped with a 220-ton star that commemorates the site of the Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. The monument, constructed between 1936 and 1939 is the world’s tallest monumental column and is part of the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. By comparison, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall. The column is an octagonal shaft faced with Texas Cordova shellstone, topped with a 34-foot Lone Star.

San Jacinto Monument engravings

San Jacinto Monument engravings

The monument recounts the Battle of San Jacinto with words and engravings etched into its stone. Below is the fourth segment of the eight section story, which I will recount in the next eight paragraphs.

San Jacinto Monument 4th section

The 4th section engraved on the San Jacinto Monument telling of Texas independence

The early policies of Mexico toward her Texas colonists had been extremely liberal. Large grants of land were made to them, and no taxes or duties imposed. The relationship between the Anglo-Americans and Mexicans was cordial. But, following a series of revolutions begun in 1829, unscrupulous rulers successively seized power in Mexico. Their unjust acts and despotic decrees led to the revolution in Texas.

In June, 1832, the colonists forced the Mexican authorities at Anahuac to release Wm. B. Travis and others from unjust imprisonment. The Battle of Velasco, June 26, and the Battle of Nacogdoches, August 2, followed; in both the Texans were victorious. Stephen Fuller Austin, “Father of Texas,” was arrested January 3, 1834, and held in Mexico without trial until July, 1835. The Texans formed an army, and on November 12, 1835, established a provisional government.

San Jacinto Monument Texas Cordova shellstone

San Jacinto Monument Texas Cordova shellstone

The first shot of the Revolution of 1835-36 was fired by the Texans at Gonzales, October 2, 1835, in resistance to a demand by Mexican soldiers for a small cannon held by the colonists. The Mexican garrison at Goliad fell October 9; the Battle of Concepcion was won by the Texans, October 28. San Antonio was captured December 10, 1835 after five days of fighting in which the indomitable Benjamin R. Milam died a hero, and the Mexican Army evacuated Texas.

Texas declared her independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos March 2. For nearly two months her armies met disaster and defeat: Dr. James Grant’s men were killed on the Aguadulce March 2; William Barret Travis and his men sacrificed their lives at the Alamo, March 6; William Ward was defeated at Refugio, March 14; Amos B. King’s men were executed near Refugio, March 16; and James Walker Fannin and his army were put to death near Goliad March 27, 1836.

San Jacinto Monument Sarah and Bryson

Sarah and Bryson in the observation deck of the San Jacinto Monument

On this field on April 21, 1836 the Army of Texas commanded by General Sam Houston, and accompanied by the Secretary of War, Thomas J. Rusk, attacked the larger invading army of Mexicans under General Santa Anna. The battle line from left to right was formed by Sidney Sherman’s regiment, Edward Burleson’s regiment, the artillery commanded by George W. Hockley, Henry Millard’s infantry and the cavalry under Mirabeau B. Lamar. Sam Houston led the infantry charge.

With the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” the Texans charged. The enemy taken by surprise, rallied for a few minutes then fled in disorder. The Texans had asked no quarter and gave none. The slaughter was appalling, victory complete, and Texas free! On the following day General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna, self-styled “Napoleon of the West,” received from a generous foe the mercy he had denied Travis at the Alamo and Fannin at Goliad.

San Jacinto Monument view of USS Texas

San Jacinto Monument view of USS Texas

Citizens of Texas and immigrant soldiers in the Army of Texas at San Jacinto were natives of Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Scotland.

Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican-American War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost one-third of the present area of the American Nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty.

San Jacinto Monument view of the Houston Channel

San Jacinto Monument view of the Houston Ship Channel

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Webcam Crawling

Bryson webcam crawling

Bryson webcam crawling

The webcam is a marvelous device. Our webcam is regularly in use as we communicate with Sarah in Keller, Texas. This had me wondering when and where the first webcam was used.

The First Webcam

The Trojan Room coffee pot was the inspiration for the world’s first webcam installed on a local network in 1991. The coffee pot was located in the so-called Trojan Room within the old Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. The webcam was created to help people working in other parts of the building avoid pointless trips to the coffee room by providing, on the user’s desktop computer, a live 128×128 grayscale picture of the state of the coffee pot. On August 22, 2001, the camera was finally switched off.

Faraway Grandchild

Today we saw Bryson crawling for the first time over the webcam. That was a marvelous sight. Jill heavily praised Bryson, which brings a smile to his face. This elicits more praise from Jill which brings forth another smile from Bryson. I rather think this would continue all day long if not for Sarah saying, “OK, time to go.” And this is another great thing about the webcam. Because it is so easy to break off a conversation it makes it easier to start one, knowing you can sign off in an instant.

With five children it was rather inevitable that at least one would move away. On the bright side it did give me a reason to travel. Jill doesn’t need a reason to travel. She will go anywhere, any time, except to go to the kitchen to get me a snack — I have to do that myself. All I need now is a webcam on the chips so that I can cut down on wasted trips.

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Kaysville to Keller

Today Jill, Paul, and myself left Kaysville, Utah at 5:25am for Keller, Texas. We went with a longer route (1,379 miles) that is supposedly faster (19 hours 55 mins). Except for a few miles, the whole route is entirely freeway — that would explain the faster. If you’ve never traveled from Utah to Texas then this post will probably be of no interest to you. However, if you have gone this way before let me know what route you prefer and why. Perhaps I can amend my return plans with your suggestions.

We entertained ourselves (when we weren’t driving) with a cell phone, a Blackberry, two laptops, GPS navigation, two MP3 players, a CD audio book, and several movies. We can’t tell you what the countryside looked like. :) After traveling 950 miles in 13 1/2 hours we stopped over in Salina, Kansas. Time to get out the laptop and blog!


17 Mar 2009 The next day (14th) we left at 6:30am and took 5 1/2 hours to drive the remaining 429 miles to Keller.
21 Mar 2009 We left Keller yesterday morning utilizing an alternative route back to Kaysville suggested by Derek. This time I had my GPS collect data as we drove straight through. At 1,236 miles, this route was 143 miles shorter. Our moving average was 67.8 mph with a moving time of 18.16 hours. This compares with a moving time plus all stoppages (minus overnight stop) of 19 hours for the longer route. If stoppages were added in for the shorter route, the longer route would actually be faster, though not by much.
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Sarah and Bryson Leave For Texas

Sarah and Bryson left for Texas today.

Jill, Sarah, and Bryson at the Salt Lake airport

It was a sad, rickety day as Sarah and Bryson prepared to leave for Texas. Derek has found work there so it was necessary to move. With Bryson being our first grandchild, and just starting to smile, he will be especially missed. However, Adelaide’s due date is seven days from now and so the newest arrival will receive all our lavish attention. Poor thing, I hope you know how to smile :) . Now I know why movie stars wear sunglasses — to protect themselves from all the flash photography. Jill is already planning a visit to Texas and I expect we will become quite familiar with the lone star state. The motto of Texas is friendship so if any of you Texans from Keller see Sarah about town be sure to say “Hi”.
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