Friday, July 8, 2011

A Scathing Review

Okay, not scathing but I've always wanted to use that word in my blog and now I have. And this isn't actually a review-more a recap and then my thoughts on it all. Incidentally, nobody asked for my thoughts but I'm putting them out there just the same. You're welcome.

While in Houston we decided to visit the Johnson Space Center. Hubs is especially interested in that sort of thing and it was indoors which sounded good to Daughter1 and I on a sultry Saturday in July so off we went.

I'm not sure what I was expecting but I think I imagined something along the lines of the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC...exhibits, time lines, artifacts, and some interactive stuff know, educational but in a good way.

After queuing outside in the heat and then having my purse searched (they always open my bag, roll their eyes, and send me on my way because seriously, you don't want to dig around in my purse if you don't have to) we finally stepped into the main entry hall. It was teeming, and I do mean teeming, with little children running to and fro. I mean so many little children you had to watch where you were walking or you might be taken out by one as he whizzes past. Oh my aching ears-the noise-WOWZA! The very first thing you see upon entry is a ginormous indoor playset-the kind with climbing nets going to the ceiling, tunnels to crawl thru and ball pits. I can imagine unsuspecting parents entering the Space Center with children and immediately having to negotiate the playground. It smacks you in the face so I'm pretty sure if your 5 or 6 year old lays eyes on it they are going to want to play sooner rather than later. Who wants to see boring old space stuff when you've got an indoor playground and a ball pit? Why is this at the entry?

I realize it's Houston and its hot and folks need places to go in the summertime but this seemed like an odd place to put a play area. The Space Center offers various tram tours and we opted for the white tour at the recommendation of our ticket agent who gushed about the fact that it's only offered in July and is a do not miss. The white tour took you to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab which we all wanted to see. She neglected to mention it was a 15-20 minute bus ride each way. In addition we stood in the queue 30 minutes, went thru another security screening and then sat on the bus almost 20 minutes while we waited on a guide to get back from another tour before we could depart. Who runs this place anyway? Oh yeah-the government. It's certainly not Walt.

Once you were on the bus you were more or less trapped. There were three adults in wheelchairs who required a great deal of assistance yet they did not board them first or reserve any seating in the front of the bus for the handicapped. The young employee who helped them board sweetly asked a woman in the front row if she and her children (who were elementary school aged) would mind moving back and she said, yes-she'd mind. So these three folks who had very obvious handicaps and struggled mightily to walk had to make their way to open seats all the way in the back of the bus. My daughter and I shifted so they could have our seats but we were already about halfway back anyway. This whole scenario absolutely made my blood boil. Is this the kind of example we're now setting for our children? Every man for himself? I got here first and tough luck to whoever is behind me? My husband nicely said something to the tour guide once we FINALLY reached our destination and on the ride back they did reserve the front row for those who truly needed the front row.

Soooo, two hours after entering the Space Center we finally see our first space related exhibit-the neutral buoyancy lab.

This is where you'll find the big giant pool they use to test procedures, develop hardware, and train astronauts for working in space. Essentially neutral buoyancy mimics reduced gravity and is something close to what they will experience in space. Not exact, but close. It's hard to photograph from behind glass but inside the pool are full sized mock shuttle cargo bays, flight payloads, and I think a replica of at least a portion of the International Space Station. The pool is massive and up until the recent Olympics in China was the largest pool in the world. It's now the second largest at over 200 feet long, over 100 feet wide and over 40 feet deep. Astronauts are brave, aren't they?

Once we made it back to the Space Center we had some very expensive chicken tenders and regrouped. Now, please don't misunderstand...I love kids of all ages, shapes, and sizes, but something about this whole set up just seemed wrong. In a way it seemed a little bit disrespectful to the very serious job an astronaut is trained to do. Besides the playground there were games and all sorts of non-space related attractions.

Pirates? Are there pirates in space? Do we need to turn everything in to entertainment for the kids? I think we need places for kids to play but I'm just not sure the Johnson Space Center should be one of them. At the very least the "let's keep the little ones happy" portion could be a side show as opposed to the main attraction.

We've been to the Air and Space museum in D.C. many times. It's free. The Johnson Space Center is pricey for what you get, at least in my opinion. I'm ranting and I know I'm ranting but I've had this rant bottled up inside me for a few days and it needs to go somewhere. Some days I'm glad I have a blog.

We had opted for the audio tour (an extra charge) and it included remarks like, "by the year 2001 blah blah blah..." Dear NASA-it's 2011. Signed a Concerned Citizen. We had to really look for the space exhibits but eventually we did see some of what the Space Center is truly all about. We took turns attempting to land the shuttle-

fyi-it's harder than it looks.

I could never be an astronaut. I mean besides having to do things like float above the earth and live and breathe in a confined space that spins all while keeping your breakfast, lunch, and dinner down, as you solve complicated mathematical equations you also have to land a machine with a dashboard that has buttons on the ceiling and looks like this-

There's also the little matter of this-

That would be the ladies room in case you can't tell. The men's room too I guess. When you're in outer space such things probably don't matter.

Daughter1 and I agree we won't be living in space until they make it more like The Jetsons. I bet some people reading here don't even know who The Jetsons are. You probably grew up playing video games and could land the shuttle with your eyes closed too.


  1. As a teacher I can testify that children are sometimes A PAIN IN THE A**. I love Astronomy and space stuff, but I don't know if I would spend my money on the Johnson space center. At least, you got to see some cool stuff, did they show you how those toilets work? It's a suction kidding.

  2. As a person that reads reviews before buying something or going some where. I appreciate an honest review be it a rant I totally agree with you and not that I have plans to visit Houston you just never know. It sickens me the people on the bus not moving for handicap people...who does that? Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  3. I'm with you. I will take life like the Jetson's, if space travel/living is in my future!

  4. Reading this and reliving the chaos of that place. Sigh. An appropriate rant. I think you should forward this on to the people who run that place.

  5. I think I'm going to take this as a 'heads-up' and just be satisfied that I saw it via your visit. LOL

    Did the expensive nuggets taste like cardboard?

  6. Ok, NOT going to the Johnson space center. Even though there are many interesting things, the whole "kids" thing would put me really off. Good for you for being honest.

  7. Rant away --
    You know, I'd love to live like the Jetsons -- especially the whole getting showered, dressed and make-up-ed hair-do capsule!

  8. I enjoy the word scathing and must now use it. :) Pirates???

  9. I do love kids too but having a play ground at a science center is just too much. And I would love to live in the Jetsons! Do you know how they sleep? I've got them in my mind floating around the shuttle!!

  10. I must say it doesn't sound like a fun day and it wouldn't be what I would expect either. Many years ago we had a bad experience while taking a tour of NASA while we were in Florida. Never again!

  11. I'm with Betty...not going to the Johnson space center! Whew-ee. My kids love Air & Space in DC; glad they can appreciate a REAL space exhibit.

    My blood would have been boiling re: the bus incident, as well. Wow! What was she teaching her kids? Crazy!

    Nicely written. Glad we got to enjoy the rant! :)

  12. Thanks for the heads up--and being honest!!!

  13. We visited the Johnson Space Center when the boys were much younger, I think 5 and 9. I don't recall them having a playground at that time. We went on a tour and saw mission control. I don't think the boys were as interested in it at that time. But I do agree with you that having a playground and pirates is a bit too much!

  14. Seems like the whole thing should just be about the space program and forget the playground. There are other places kids can go for that.

    You asked about motion on our Alaska cruise ship. We experienced a little motion on the second day (a full day of cruising between Vancouver and Ketchikan). Other than that, it was smooth sailing. We had been on this same ship once before--last October on our Greek Isles trip. I like Oceania Cruise Lines because the ships are smaller (640 passengers on our ship and only twice that many on their largest ship). Plus we only saw three kids. Like you I love children, but there are times you want to be away from them. There are other cruise lines that cater to families with children, and that's fine.

  15. The Scotts will not be visiting this place if we ever visit Houston. That's sad because the boys love museums, space and educational experiences. But this is not one of those things. Having two boys who love learning and are born science nuts, I hate that many museums feel they must pander to the masses and bring entertainment into the mix. The learning experience is "dumbed-down" by ball pits, over-sized jungle gyms, and the latest movie craze (pirates??!!). No favors are being done for the masses with stuff like that.

  16. I agree totally about the Jetson's. My daughter and I always dream of having that conveyor belt to get us ready in the morning!
    It seems sad about that playground at the entrance and the pirates. Makes no sense at all. I wasn't thrilled with all the groups of children on some of the museum trips I did but not much you can do about it. They overran the palace at Versailles! The pool must be an amazing thing to see. At least you went our and did some sightseeing!

  17. Hey, I had six kids of my own and I still think children should be controlled in public places! It's not all about them--as I'm constantly telling mine. And I hate the idea that an actual educational experience is being dumbed down to mindless entertainment. I'm all for mindless entertainment, but not at a place that is clearly supposed to be educational. (which doesn't mean it's not entertaining, too!) Hey, look at me! I've joined the rant! : )