Although located south of Houston, it was overcast and drizzly. Despite the rain, it wasn't too bad a day. NASA was a cool place. So cool, in fact that the pipe above the liquid Nitrogen tanks were completely frosted over. :-)
The intrepid crew was led by our fearless leader, Dr. Thompson (that's him in the red shirt). The rest of the crew is Thomas (in the lead), Tim ? Julie (in the second row), Randy joined us in Houston (looking to his right), Carleton and Rhonda (in the back of the pack), and Jacob (as rear-guard watching our backs).
Our first stop was the Saturn V rocket which sits out front. The photo at the top of this page gives a top-down view, but I think this view
The annual Inspection that NASA hosts works by open invitation to educators and industry who visit and are treated to displays by the NASA researchers themselves. They generously lavish anybody who has a question or a look of interest with as much information as the curious can think to ask. In this photo, for example, Carleton observes intently a demonstration off-camera, while Rhonda laughs as a researcher makes bunny-ears behind the camera-man. (See how much fun you can have on the SPS adventures??!!??) The display in the background is typical of the researchers presentations.
In addition to the displays, we were also allowed to wander about on NASA's "campus." With the rain, we were able to perform some thin film experiments on the windows. (See the multicolored layer on the windows? That is due to a thin film of oil of varying thickness which reflects different wavelengths [colors] of light based on the specific thickness.) You can also sit in the experimental aircrafts as Dr. Christensen is doing here.
After a brief stop for lunch in the NASA cafeteria,
At the end of the day, on our way back to the hotel, we stopped in to visit the experimental re-entry vehicle, the X38. This will be used as an emergency lifeboat for astronauts living on the ISS (International Space Station) to return to Earth. Seen here are Tim and Julie showing just how small the X38 is. In fact, it can be carried under the wing of a plane for testing in the upper atmosphere. The re-entry vehicle is also designed with no means of propulsion. When it leaves the ISS, it will fall back to Earth (not straight down, obviously -- once it enters the atmosphere, it will glide down to the planet).