One of my favorite things about living in HTX is being able to visit Johnson Space Center (JSC) all. the. time! Recently, I got to take a MUCH closer look thanks to many of the wonderful people I’m so fortunate to call my friends.
Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) was the first destination on my list. Getting to see the super-gigantic, 100-foot-deep pool was so so exciting! Inside the pool, astronauts accompanied by divers trained for Extravehicular Activity (EVA) on scale models of the International Space Station (ISS).
And the coolest thing happened !! Astronaut Tom Marshburn resurfaced from a long day of EVA training, and I got to meet him. After he got out of his (very heavy, something like 400 lbs.) suit, we had a nice conversation. He encouraged me to keep reaching for the stars, and I found out that he likes eating Cool Ranch Fritos.
After meeting Tom Marshburn, I headed over to the suit lab. An EVA suit like the one Tom Marshburn will wear in space costs approximately $9 million! The majority of that cost belongs to the astronaut’s “backpack,” which serves as life support and makes the EVA suit essentially its own space craft. Seeing all of the suit components and materials was especially interesting, and knowing that a great deal of what I’d seen will go to space made this particular experience all the more exciting.
Another place I visited at JSC was the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, where I got to experience the Space Shuttle from inside. A super neat thing about this building is that astronauts use the vehicle replicas to train for missions where they’ll operate the same equipment in space.
Mission Control is where JSC’s history and legacy collide with its innovation and pioneering. Today, the team works 24/7 to ensure that operations on the ISS are running smoothly. Just a few doors down from where Mission Control is hard at work is the room where Gene Krantz and his colleagues made history as part of the Apollo Program.
Probably the most exciting thing (especially for my inner 4th grader) I did at JSC was meeting former astronaut and current Director of JSC Dr. Ellen Ochoa. When I was about 10 years old, I kept her picture in my binder to remind myself that I can achieve anything I can dream if I work for it; there is nothing or no one to stand in my way. Dr. Ochoa is so kind, wise, and humble. She congratulated me on my steps in the right direction so far, and she encouraged me to keep working hard and doing what I love.*