Last week I was at Houston’s ComicPalooza Con, or rather the ‘Texas International Comic Con’, and it had possibly one of the most awesome beginnings that I’ve ever had at a convention, and possibly may corrupt any idea in my wife Tracy’s mind on what to expect in the future on one of these trips, as on the Thursday before the convention, I got to live a dream and travel behind the scenes at NASA Houston.
Of course, it had to start with a surreal moment, and this was the journey there with fellow VIPs including Doctor Whos Colin Baker and Paul McGann, Power Rangers Walter Jones and Austin St. John, celebrity chums Zach McGinnis and Mathew Egan and 24 / Transformers hero Glenn Morshower, in the ‘VIP Bus’. Which turned out to be a limo bus. With a stripper pole. Still, it was a definite icebreaker.
When you visit NASA, you’re taken around behind glass. Special people get to walk along a slightly closer ‘behind the barrier’ walkway.
After meeting our fairy godmother (and organiser of this) Jeannie, she led us to astronaut Col. Mike Fincke, who took us around the entire Astronaut training center, allowing us to enter the mock up of the International Space Center, sit in a Space Shuttle cockpit, pretty much the whole works while talking about his time in space. In total we had a good two hours of exploration, even seeing the new ORION trainer. (Orion is the next scheduled Space Flight.) It was awe inspiring, and many pictures were taken. They walked us to the bus and we were happy school kids on a day trip. Best trip ever.
And then? They continued. They took us to Mission Control, where we saw the current control centre, monitoring the International Space Centre, and then they allowed us unprecedented access to the original Mission Control, the one where so many famous scenes have been played out over the years. We sat at the desks. We enacted scenes from movies. And we stared in awe at the sheer magnificence of it.
I think it’s fair to say that each of us there today walked out inspired and awestruck. My brother Chris taught me about space travel (his own hobby and then work, as he’s now the new Head of International Space Policy for the UK Space Agency) since I was able to talk, and to be there?