Time Magazine recently featured identical twins, Mark and Scott Kelly. (The picture above is NOT Mark and Scott Kelly.) You are probably most familiar with Mark Kelly because he is the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, a retired Arizona congresswoman who was a victim of an assassination attempt in 2011.
I didn’t realize until reading the cover story in December 28 edition of Time that Mark (older by 6 minutes) and Scott are both astronauts, and they are currently preparing for a year long mission with NASA in which Scott will spend a year in the International Space Station (ISS). NASA is hoping to study the long term affects of space on the body in preparation for their ambitious game plan of sending humans to Mars in 2035. Interestingly, space travel does a whole array of strange things to the body (eye balls lose some of their shape, bones become weak) and NASA wants to study these affects as well as the affects that space travel has on your mental state. What better way than to have someone who has nearly a genetic double, a control subject, on Earth?
I kept thinking about this article and how twins are helping the advancement of the space program this past weekend when our family visited the Houston Space Center. Maddie’s Girl Scout troop was doing a “camp-in” at the space center. So while Maddie and I and about 130 other people literally slept under the stars. . .Scott and the boys stayed at a nearby hotel and met us the next morning for a tram tour of the NASA facilities and then a special and unexpected surprise!
One of the stops on the tram tour was Mission Control. The first time we saw the original room for the Apollo missions. What was so amazing about that room was the rudimentary technology. We actually sent people to the moon using those computers? We have more power in our smart phones than they did in that entire room!
The tour also included visiting the Apollo rockets. It is hard not to be daunted by their immense size.
The surprise came at the end of the tour when one of Scott’s a high school friends, Paul Spana, who is Exhibits Manager of the Houston Space Center, took us to see the newest exhibit being renovated: the Boeing 747 that ferried the Space Shuttle from its landing spot to launch pad.
Built in 1970 and working as a passenger airplane from 1970-1974 this behemoth was given to the Houston Space Center in April 2014–but only if the space center could move it from Ellington Field where it had landed after its last flight. The 747 was taken apart and moved at walking speed through the You can see how they moved it in this video.
The younger kids didn’t really care too much about the history of the plane, they immediately climbed into the cockpit and pretended the be pilots. Because really, how would you know you might want to be a pilot unless you could touch all those controls and flick a few switches as your brother yelled, “YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE US CRASH!”
We explored the reinforced but gutted hull and learned about its features. Did you know that this 747 had a galley underneath the passengers and food carts would be prepared and loaded on to elevators that brought it up to where the passengers were sitting?
The Houston Space Center is hoping that this exhibit, which sits impressively at the front of their interactive visitor’s center, will open in late summer 2015.
As for my astronauts, who knows what seeds were planted with this visit! Maybe Will and Luke will be the next generation’s Scott and Mark Kelly.