NASA: Staring at History

The Texas Story Project.

I remember the first time my dad took me to Space Center Houston.

I was a young, excited three year old boy. I looked around the giant building taking in all that my three year old mind could take. I wanted to see everything and experience all that I could in the short time I had there. I looked up to the pictures of the giant rockets and wanted to know more. Although this was my first time, it would certainly not be my last. That first trip to Space Center Houston ignited the spark that began my interest in NASA.

NASA has always been a big part of my life. My dad works for NASA, so I have been around this kind of stuff from almost the time I was born. I have always been fascinated by rockets and space exploration, and I often like to sit around and think about all the past missions and what has been successful and what has gone wrong, and I have probably watched the Apollo 13 movie 100 times. I have read so many books about NASA and space flight that I have lost count. Although the missions are cool, a lot of the details get lost in the excitement of the mission.

When you study some of the missions NASA has done, you only hear about the launch and what they are doing on the mission and how they got back, but you still have all the thousands of steps that go before that. When you think about all the parts that go into a rocket, all the hours people have worked to make this happen, all the training the astronauts have gone through to do this, all the stress people have gone through to make the deadline, all the money that has been spent, all the missions we have done—it can get overwhelming. While reading and studying it is cool, you don't get the same connection you get from being there and seeing history happen right before your eyes.

I have seen some of the best pieces of NASA's work and have even been to a rocket launch that my dad was working on. My dad works on the Orion project, which is the latest capsule that is going to be used on the new SLS rocket that is going to be used for the upcoming missions. This flight, though, was a test flight called EFT 1 (Exploration Flight Test 1.) The rocket it was launched on was a Delta IV heavy cargo rocket. This mission was unmanned and was used to test many of the components through the tough environments of space. One of the major tests was to see how the computers onboard reacted to a thick band of heavy radiation in space. As you watch the countdown clock and see the rocket engines turn on and build up to full power, you can feel the force of the engines surging through the ground and throughout your body, fighting to get away from the pull of gravity. The test was successful, and the computers and the rest of the systems onboard did what they were designed to do. That experience has always stood out in my mind. I have also been inside some of the mission control rooms, including the one they flew the Apollo missions from. It made me stop and think about the fact that I am staring at history. To see where the flight director and flight controllers were working when Apollo 13, or Apollo 9, or any Apollo mission that was flown makes you think about the people that were here that did their best no matter what was thrown their way. As I grew up, I have looked up to these kinds of people.

That first trip to Space Center Houston sparked my interest. If it wasn't for that one trip to a place for kids to run around and have fun, I wouldn't have experienced half of the things I have today, and I wouldn't be the person I am today without it.

Jackson Uitenbroek is from Dickinson, Texas. He is a student at St. Catherine's Montessori School and wrote this story for a school project.

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