Johnson Space Center, Houston
NASA Celebrates Space Day at the Texas Capital
Texans have a special appreciation for the stars. After all, at night they are big and bright, deep in the heart of the Lone Star State.
And then there’s the fact that for more than 40 years, NASA’s been in Houston helping Texans get a closer look at them. Today, state legislators and the public are getting a chance to find out how at Texas Space Day.
NASA employees, contractors and supporters are at the capital all day today with exhibits and information on what Texas is doing for the nation’s space program, and what the space program is doing for Texas.
“We have a great exhibit in the rotunda,” said Eileen Hawley, Director of External Relations for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. “The public can come through and see all of the things we’re doing, both in terms of education and with our three major space flight programs.”
And that’s a lot. Everything is bigger in Texas, and NASA is no exception. Johnson Space Center is the largest of the 10 NASA field centers, and has been home to Mission Control and NASA’s astronaut corps since 1961. More recently, it was chosen to serve as host to the Constellation Program – NASA’s plan for returning to the moon and then heading on to Mars.
“Houston is Space City,” Hawley said. “It’s nice to go up to the capital and remind them that they have this great connection with history and with the future.”
The connection’s not just sentimental, however. More than 16,000 people work either at the center or for one of NASA’s contractors; their combined salaries put about $1.5 billion into the Texas economy each year. On top of that, NASA obligated more than $3 billion to businesses doing work in Texas in the last fiscal year, and spent another $41 million on grants, contracts and agreements with Texas universities and educational institutions.
NASA also brings less tangible benefits to Texas. More than 5,600 students and teachers have participated in Johnson Space Center’s Texas Aerospace Scholars program. Students are nominated by legislators to spend a year doing special online lessons that culminate in a summer trip to the center. And teachers can rack up a week of special development while learning to integrate NASA materials into their curriculum with distance learning, Webcasts and downlinks.
Small businesses also get a piece of the action through the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program. In the interest of transferring new, space-age technology to small businesses, NASA gives Texas companies direct access to its engineers when technical challenges crop up. Since 1999, more than 500 businesses have taken advantage of the program.
Joe Mayer, chairman of Citizens for Space Exploration, a private group that will have an exhibit at the rotunda on Thursday, said he thought these were things Texans would take pride in knowing. And that’s why he expects Texas Space Day to be a big success.
“There’s something unique about being a Texan that’s different than any state I’ve lived in before,” Mayer said. “There are things that Texas is known for, and Johnson Space Center and human space flight is one of them. There’s a fundamental pride in that.”
For information about Johnson Space Center and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson
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