News Center

Space Center Houston Honors Exceptional Educator

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Space Center Houston honored an exceptional science teacher with the prestigious Cherri Brinley Outstanding Educator Award for her significant achievements in space science education.

Jodie Guillen of Edgewood, New Mexico, received the award during the 23rd Space Exploration Educators Conference. More than 500 educators participated in the interactive workshops led by scientists, engineers and astronauts and took home engaging classroom techniques for all grade levels.

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Lucy and Psyche headline NASA’s new Discovery missions

Last month, NASA announced its next two planetary science missions as part of its Discovery program. These two missions, Lucy and Psyche, will visit eight asteroids between 2025 and 2033.

Their overall mission, however, is to get to the roots of our solar system itself. By studying the protean worlds of asteroids, NASA hopes to understand how our own world came to be and the forces that shaped the other planets orbiting our sun.

Lucy will launch in 2021, check in on an object in the main asteroid belt before visiting six more “Trojan” asteroids. These last six are asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit and are held in place by the gas giant’s gravity.

On a conference call announcing the missions, Lucy principal investigator Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, explained how his probe will investigate how our solar system began.

“These (Trojan asteroids) really are the fossils of planet formation,” Levison said.

Meanwhile, Psyche will head to a metallic asteroid world named Psyche. This celestial body orbits between Mars and Jupiter, but has some very exciting scientific properties. For one, it’s made of the same stuff as Earth’s core: metallic iron and nickel. It also may have solid metal jutting off its surface.

Scientists are interested in learning more about the makeup of this asteroid to determine if it’s the remnants of a larger planet’s exposed inner core.

Psyche’s mission is headed by a science team at Arizona State University.

Both of these missions came from a competitive planetary science program and are considered some of the lowest-cost missions NASA will execute. These two missions were chosen from an initial field of 27, which was pared to five last year.

Explorer 1 put NASA into the Space Race

One basketball-sized streak across the skies in 1957 set in motion the Space Race. America’s returning shot to both Sputnik missions was a satellite of its own.

Space Center Houston has a full-scale replica of Explorer 1, the first American satellite sent into orbit, in its Starship Gallery. While the Space Age began with the Soviet Union’s Sputnik I launch on Oct. 4, 1957, Explorer 1’s launch on Jan. 31, 1958, marked the beginning of space exploration for the United States. It was a boost for America as it competed with the Soviet Union over the conquest of space.

Explorer 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral near Kennedy Space Center by a rocket which was designed by German-born rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. Though scientists learned from Sputnik’s orbits, Explorer 1 made the first scientific discovery from space.

Designed to study cosmic rays, it detected areas of intense radiation around the Earth using a device created by scientist James Van Allen. These radiation areas trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field became known as the Van Allen belts.

Explorer sits in a vaunted place in the history of the American space program. Von Braun’s rocket design and development were integral in the sudden growth of the space program and culminated with the Saturn series of rockets that launched the Apollo missions to the Moon.

A Super Bowl Fan Adventure Awaits at Space Center Houston

Gear up for the big game and tackle what it takes to be an astronaut at Space Center Houston when Super Bowl LI lands in Space City. Be among the first to explore the red plant at Space Center Houston’s new Mission Mars exhibit, see a unique space art collection and race robots for a touchdown.

“There’s no better place to experience the biggest game on the planet than Houston and have an out of this world adventure than Space Center Houston,” said the center’s President and CEO William T. Harris. “We have something for everyone with interactive exhibits, hands-on science-based activities and a chance to see history in the making on the tram tour.”

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Space Center Houston Creates Spectacular New Mars Exhibit

Awaken the red planet inside the spectacular new Mission Mars exhibit. It’s an immersive experience, which offers an opportunity to peer inside an Orion spacecraft research model, stand close to a giant model rocket and walk on a virtual Mars environment.

The multi-million-dollar interactive exhibit, designed with input from NASA experts, opens as the nonprofit also kicks off its 25th anniversary year.

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Astronaut Gene Cernan dies at 82

Celebrate Cernan’s memory in Starship Gallery

  • Discover the Apollo 17 Command Module in which Cernan traveled to the moon in 1972.
  • See a recreation of Cernan excavating rock and soil samples from the moon during the Apollo 17 mission on the Lunar Landscape.
  • Touch a moon rock and see other moon rocks and soil in our Lunar Vault. Apollo 17 brought back the most lunar samples of all missions.

The last man to stand on the moon died Monday.

“Retired Navy Captain Gene Cernan not only left his footprints on the moon, but in our hearts,” said President and CEO William T. Harris of Space Center Houston. “He will forever be remembered as an inspiration to us all and a strong advocate for Space Center Houston’s educational mission. He helped launch the pathway for future explorers to discover unlimited opportunities.”

The legacy of the last man on the moon lives on at Space Center Houston as generations of people are inspired to explore by hearing his story and seeing the Apollo 17 capsule used on the last mission to the moon. Cernan always was willing to lend his support to the center, Harris said. The astronaut was honored at the center’s fundraising luncheon “Mission to Mars” in 2016 and appeared on a panel at its first Galaxy Gala in 2015.

“Gene will be remembered for his incredible spirit and passion, and his willingness to help others achieve their dreams,” said Fred Griffin, chairman of the board of directors of the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation.

Cernan served as a pilot in the Navy, had a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering and flew into space three times. He also earned two NASA Distinguished Service medals, two Navy Distinguished Service medals and the Navy’s Distinguished Flying Cross.

During his first trip into orbit aboard Gemini 9, Cernan became the second American to take a spacewalk. Cernan also descended towards the moon in the lunar lander during the Apollo 10 mission but did not land. As such, he’s the only person to have made two different lunar descents.

Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17, leading Harrison Schmidt down to the lunar surface in the lander “Challenger.” Their command module, America, is on display in Space Center Houston’s Starship Gallery.

In all, the astronauts brought back 243 pounds (110 kilograms) of lunar samples and spent 75 hours on the surface of the moon.

Cernan’s final words from the moon voiced an idea he championed throughout his life: that he not be the final person to stand on that lunar soil.

Space Center Houston Sets New Annual Record

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More than one million visitors streamed through the doors of Space Center Houston in 2016, marking it as the best-ever year for the nonprofit. The record-breaking one-million milestone came last month, just as the center was poised to open its 25th anniversary year and unveil a new permanent exhibit before Super Bowl LI.

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Houston-area Teachers Win Big for their Big Ideas

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Space Center Houston and KHOU 11 are proud to congratulate the winners of the Inspiring Curiosity contest, dedicated to engaging students for a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The winners were announced on Wednesday awarding Space Center Houston teacher scholarships and $8,000 in total prize money to help implement engaging science curriculum in the classroom.

KHOU 11 along with William T. Harris, Space Center Houston’s CEO and Daniel Newmyer, Space Center Houston’s director of education went to the school to surprise the grand prize winner Stephanie Shaw at Kaufman Elementary in Conroe Independent School District with the big news. Shaw and her colleague Missy Flanagan collaborated on the contest and are also last year’s winners.

The four Houston area finalists from each grade-level category included Stephanie Shaw, Kaufman Elementary (kindergarten-second grade); Betsy Crafton, Grace School (third-firth grade); Murrai Scanlon, Montgomery Middle School (sixth-eighth grade); and Denise King, Barbers Hill High School (ninth-12th).

All four finalists each will receive a Space Center Houston scholarship to the three-day STEM conference 23rd Space Exploration Educators Conference, Feb. 9-11. The grand prize winner will also choose from scholarships to attend the Space Center Houston’s five-day engineering program Space Center U™ or three Distance Learning sessions for grades second through 12th.

Meet the James Webb Space Telescope

James Webb led NASA in its infancy and directed Apollo to the moon. In 2018, his name will rocket past the moon as part of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

This next-generation telescope will study every phase in the history of our universe, ranging from the glows after the Big Bang to the formation of solar systems including our own. Much like the International Space Station, JWST is a product of international cooperation between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Pieces of this massive space telescope are even now being prepared in NASA Johnson Space Center’s unique vacuum chamber.

When finished, JWST will be able to detect very faint signals, giving scientists a view of the cosmos like they’ve never seen before. For instance, the JWST will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. The longer wavelengths enable JWST to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.

The other innovative feature of JWST’s mission is its orbit. JWST will not be in orbit around the Earth, like the Hubble Space Telescope is – it will actually orbit the Sun, 1.5 million kilometers (1 million miles) away from the Earth at what is called the second Lagrange point, or L2. What is special about this orbit is that it lets the telescope stay in line with the Earth as it moves around the Sun. This allows the satellite’s large sunshield to protect the telescope from the light and heat of the Sun and Earth (and moon).

If JWST is orbiting the Sun further out than Earth, shouldn’t it take more than a year to orbit the Sun? Normally yes, but the balance of the combined gravitational pull of the Sun and the Earth at the L2 point means that JWST will keep up with the Earth as it goes around the Sun. The gravitational forces of the Sun and the Earth can nearly hold a spacecraft at this point, so that it takes relatively little rocket thrust to keep the spacecraft in orbit around L2.

Space Center Houston’s Colossal Exhibit Earns Top International Awards

Independence Plaza won the attraction industry’s highest honor at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo Brass Ring Awards Ceremony. Marking achievements of excellence in the global attractions industry, Space Center Houston’s colossal exhibit complex earned the prestigious Impact Award and Best New Product for Displays and Sets on Nov. 16.

“We are extremely honored and appreciative that our world-class exhibit received the most prestigious attractions industry award from our colleagues at IAAPA,” said President and CEO William T. Harris. “This exhibit is an unprecedented learning experience for generations to come.”

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Space Center Houston named Top Workplace

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Space Center Houston is proud to announce it was picked as one of the best places to work in the Houston area by the Houston Chronicle. 150 companies have been selected for the Top Workplaces award.

The Top Workplaces lists are based solely on the results of an employee feedback survey administered by WorkplaceDynamics, LLC, a leading research firm that specializes in organizational health and workplace improvement. Several aspects of workplace culture were measured, including alignment, execution, and connection, just to name a few.

“What makes this honor so special is that it is the employees who earned it,” said the center’s President and CEO William T. Harris. “We all think this is a great place to work and it’s because every team member makes it great.”

If you want to become a part of our team, visit our Careers page to learn about available opportunities.