My wife and I went up to Discovery Green in downtown Houston to visit #super bowl live, a part theme park, part exhibit area, part concert venue, and part #food truck park the day before the big game. It is not that either of us is interested in football, but #NASA, in a coup for which we hope that whomever at the space agency’s public affairs office got a raise, secured quite a bit of space to display its latest hardware.
Cool NASA stuff
The main attraction of the NASA area was a virtual reality journey to Mars. We had the choice of experiencing it while being strapped to a ride that takes people up to a great height and then drops them or with our feet on the ground. We choose the latter, mainly because the line was only 20 minutes as opposed to about an hour.
If the gentle reader has never experienced virtual reality before, let me assure you that it is amazing. I started at the top of a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center and then flew into space. I flew past the moon, then on to Mars, landing on the Red Planet and spent a minute or so looking out at the landscape that Matt Damon did in “The Martian.” Then a lifted off the Martian surface, flew back to Earth at warp speed, then landed on the 50 yard line at NRG Stadium in Houston while the crowd went wild.
Some of the other exhibits included:
- A test version of the Orion spacecraft and I believe NASA used to study how to land in the ocean like it used to do during the Apollo program;
- A lunar SUV, complete with a space suit in the back which the astronaut can put on directly from the vehicle. NASA rolled this contraption as part of President Barack Obama’s first inaugural parade in 2009 in hopes that he would be so impressed he would not cancel the Constellation return to the moon program. The gambit did not work/
- A model of a space suit and Robonaut Two, the latter being designed as a helper for astronauts on the International Space Station;
- A full-scale mockup of the Mars Curiosity. You too will be amazed we landed something that big on the surface of Mars.
Food truck lunch
The food truck we picked was something called Pho-jita, which served a fusion of Thai and Tex-Mex. The wait was about 45 minutes, but the quesadillas that combined Thai and Mexican ingredients were nothing short of amazing. Highly recommended and I hope these folks get a brick and mortar restaurant real soon.
Unrest in the streets
A word about the protestors. We did not run into the anti-Trump “resistance” as the police kept them well away from the Super Bowl Live venue. Unlike what happened at Berkeley, the HPD did not fool around. We did see a group of what we took to be the Westboro Baptists impeding traffic on a street corner yelling about gay people. As we pushed our way past to the train station, I noticed a young woman getting her picture taken giving them the one finger salute with both hands. That made my day.