News Center

Head of European Space Agency to Speak at Space Center Houston


How are NASA and the European Space Agency working together? Learn all about this partnership and more at the next installment of Space Center Houston’s Thought Leader Series featuring ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Woerner, April 19, 7 – 8:15 p.m.

This is a free event, but seating is limited. Tickets must be presented at the door for entry and are available on the center’s website,

Woerner will discuss NASA and international cooperation, as well as ESA’s current activities and future plans and its education and public engagement initiatives. Twenty-five different countries are members or associates of ESA, including Belgium, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Finland.

Learn more

Soar with the Future of Flight at Space Center Houston’s New Summer Exhibit


Space Center Houston announces its new summer exhibit Above and Beyond, set to give guests a high-flying experience into the future of aerospace technology April 21-Sept. 9.

“Earn your wings and discover the innovations that bring flight to life,” said the center’s President and CEO William T. Harris. “Become a part of the future of flight and pilot your own mission in an immersive aerospace experience.”


Lawrence a little-known astronaut pioneer

A year before the Civil Rights Act was signed into law and the same year Thurgood Marshall became the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court, Robert Henry Lawrence made history of his own. In June 1967, Lawrence became the first black astronaut when he was selected by the Air Force as part of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program.

Tragedy smudged Lawrence’s place in history, as the Air Force pilot was killed six months later in a plane crash at Edwards Air Force Base in California. History waited another 16 years before seeing the first black astronaut in space, but Lawrence will always be remembered for paving the way.

Lawrence graduated from Bradley University at age 20 in 1956, where he was a cadet in an Air Force ROTC program. He became a pilot a year later and was an instructor on the T-33 training aircraft by 25. Four years later, Lawrence earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Ohio State.

In all, Lawrence accumulated 2,500 flight hours, including testing the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. At the 50th anniversary memorial ceremony NASA held for Lawrence in 2017, former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden gave Lawrence credit for developing a steep-descent glide technique that made the Space Shuttle Program possible.

“He was involved in development of the maneuver that would become a critical part of space shuttle landing techniques called ‘flare,'” Bolden said.

Fourteen African-American women and men have flown into space since Lawrence was selected for the MOL program. Here’s a quick spotlight on some of their achievements.

Guion Bluford – Selected as an astronaut in August 1979, Bluford is a veteran of four spaceflights, becoming the first African American in space when he flew on STS-8 in 1983.

Ronald McNair – Selected as an astronaut in 1978, McNair tragically lost his life in the Challenger disaster in 1986. It was McNair’s second mission, after flying on STS-41-B in 1984.

Charles Bolden – The 12th Administrator of NASA, Bolden was the first African American to head the agency when he was nominated in 2009. Bolden was selected as an astronaut in 1980, flew on four space missions before leaving the Astronaut Corps to return to the Marine Corps.

Mae Jemison – Jemison became the first African-American woman in space when she flew aboard STS 41 in 1992. The engineer, physician and astronaut holds nine honorary degrees. She also once appeared on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Leland Melvin – Selected as an astronaut in 1998, Melvin flew on two shuttle missions. He was on STS-122 in 2008 and STS-129 in 2009. His official NASA portrait is notable because Melvin appears in it with his two dogs, both rescues, named Jake and Scout.

Operation Restoration is Underway


Space Center Houston’s mission to help restore NASA’s Historic Mission Control began in January with a major phase of the restoration to restore the flight control consoles used by the NASA flight controllers to manage the first missions to the moon.

The first set of flight control consoles was shipped out to be restored at the Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas.

NASA historians interviewed flight directors as part of the process to their research to ensure the historical of the consoles and to learn how they reacted to the consoles.

The City of Webster has been key to this project, donating the initial $3.5 million and matching the first $400,000 in private donations from the nonprofit’s successful Kickstarter campaign.

The historic room will be recreated to look like it did in the Apollo era. Led by NASA Johnson Space Center, the effort will restore not only the flight control consoles, but will reactivate wall displays with projections of the Apollo-era. It will focus on all five areas of Mission Control to accurately portray how the area looked the moment the first moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969.

The restoration is set to be completed by the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in July 2019.

Support is still needed to help finish this project and provide extraordinary learning opportunities for generations to come. You can be a part of the mission to restore Historic Mission Control.


New Chair, Board Members Join Space Center Houston

Nonprofit Announces New Strategic Plan as It Celebrates 25 Years


Space Center Houston announces the 2018 slate for its board of directors and a new strategic plan as it celebrates 25 years.

“We’ve worked hard and experienced tremendous growth,” said William T. Harris, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “The dedication, expertise and knowledge of these civic and industry leaders will enable Space Center Houston to realize its new strategic plan and be of even greater service to the community.”

Lon Miller of Jacobs replaces Fred Griffin of Griffin Partners Inc. as the chair of the board of directors.

“I am excited as we move forward with our plan,” Miller said. “The strategic framework spells out our vision, by which everything we do will be guided.”


Year in Review: Looking Back at the NASA Spinoffs of 2017

Each year, NASA Spinoff profiles roughly 50 scientific and technological innovations that were developed for space travel but now have found their way into our lives. NASA has been documenting these transformative technologies since 1976, with more than 2,000 products and services shared with the world.

These spinoffs lead to improvements in health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology and industrial productivity.

As we enter 2018, it is important to look back on the accomplishments of 2017 and some of the new technologies that are transforming our lives and the world around us.

The ultimate baby blanket
Blankets and wraps for babies incorporate space technology through phase-change materials (PCMs) that regulate temperature. This material originally was investigated for managing heat inside spacesuits.

A water purifier that is purely awesome
This efficient low-cost water purification system can filter water quickly enough to supply an entire village! The NanoCeram filter, originally developed for JSC, eliminates more than 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses. It is portable and can be either battery-operated or hand-cranked.

Improved sight on the slopes
Based off technology developed in the 1990s, Optic Nerve Inc. and NASTEK partnered to develop a new line of ski goggles which can filter roughly 95 percent of blue light, enabling all skiers to enjoy a clearer view on the slopes.

A golf club with game
Spiralock threading, invented in 1979, increased the clamping power of screws and bolts which helped them survive multiple shuttle launches. This technology is now being used by Cobra Puma Golf to secure the “spaceport” in its new driver, allowing it to have the lowest center of gravity ever for a club.

Self-driving tractors
In 2001 John Deere partnered with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to receive data to inform its own GPS receivers for tractor guidance. NASA software eventually enabled self-driving equipment around the globe.

A look back with laser images
Lidar, or laser-based remote sensing equipment, is allowing archaeologists to search for artifacts beneath the Earth’s surface. This technology originally was used by NASA scientists to study space, including the moon, planets and asteroids.

Rockets to race cars
A new 3-D woven quartz composite is being assessed for use on the Orion spacecraft as next-generation heat-shielding. Modified weaving equipment is being used to create denser, larger blocks of 3-D carbon composites for race cars.

Rechargeable hearing
Rechargeable hearing-aid batteries that draw from NASA research are the first to last all day on a single charge. The achievement comes after significant advances were made to the batteries’ durability.

Visit Space Center Houston to learn more about how space technology is influencing our everyday lives!