Houston, we have a walking problem


We returned to the Space Centre today to see the things we’d missed yesterday.

This time we got to see several real capsules. The striking things were how small the early capsules were – like sitting in a chair in a telephone box for a couple of days – and the damage they took on re-entry. We touched a moon rock, which is remarkable to contemplate, and learnt lots about the space program – well I did, Cal just filled in details as we went.

Now, please, let me share the fact I am happiest to have learnt – space suits have a small bit of velcro inside the helmet to allow astronauts to scratch their noses.

We were a bit nonplussed by the depth of focus on the US part of space exploration, to the point it seemed ridiculous. There’s an extensive display on the exploration of space and all the early stuff talks about what America did and then adds as a footnote what the Russians did earlier. So, for example, Yuri Gagarin gets mentioned after Alan Sheppard, the first American in space. Then there are a couple of paragraphs on John Glenn, who orbited the Earth three times in 1962, followed by a single line saying: “Glenn performs a number of tests in micro-gravity and doesn’t suffer from the same space-sickness which Russian Cosmonaut Gherman Titov experiences during his 17-orbit flight six months earlier”. It all read a bit embarrassingly like they hadn’t moved on from the McCarthy era.

The other strange American thing was when we wanted to get to the Rocket Park, which is about 200m away from the main building. We went to the front desk and asked how to get there…

“Well, Sir, you drive out the front gate and just turn left.”
“Oh, we don’t have a car, we’re walking”
“You can’t do that Sir. You can only drive.”
“Is there another way?”
“You can take the tram.”
“Doesn’t that mean taking the two-hour tour? Just to get to the last stop?”
“Yes, Sir, that’s the only way if you don’t have a car.”

So we set out to boldly go where no one had been before, and walked. It took about 10 minutes.

We got to the Rocket Park and had a good look around. Then one of the guides on the tram that tours the Space Centre came up and told us it was time to get on the tram to go back. We explained that we hadn’t come with them and had walked. “Walked?” said he, “How did you manage that?”

A country that can get people to the Moon and yet can’t figure out a way to walk 200m. Go figure.

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