"Houston, we have a problem."
The popular quote, uttered by astronauts John Swigert and Jim Lovell from the Apollo 13 spacecraft to NASA's Mission Control Center is arguably one of the best well-known examples of the city of Houston's relationship — in good times and in bad — with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration since its founding. It's also indicative of NASA's Mission Control, which is located in Houston.
NASA was formed in 1958 by president Dwight D. Eisenhower. With Houston, Texas, as its main site, today the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) consists of more than 100 buildings across 1,620 acres of land in the city's Clear Lake area. Specifically, the site is one of 10 major NASA campuses located throughout the United States. Over the years, Houston has been the site of many notable milestones in America's space program. Here's a closer look at the timeline of history regarding NASA:
- 1961: NASA officially arrived in Houston when the Manned Spacecraft Center was established in 1961. It opened in 1963, and was later named the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center to honor the president and Texas native as well as the 1958 Senate Majority Leader who sponsored the legislation to form NASA. The site is primarily where research, training and flight control occurs.
- From Gemini to Apollo: The first flight to be controlled in the then-named Manned Spacecraft Center was the Gemini IV in 1963. The Gemini program eventually gave way to the Apollo program, for which many NASA milestones followed.
- 1969: On July 20, 1969, the nation's eyes were all on Houston and the Apollo 11 mission as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. As Armstrong communicated back to Mission Control upon touching down on the moon's surface, the occasion was "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
- 1970: This year saw the launch of Apollo 13, the third mission with plans to reach the moon. When an oxygen tank exploded on board, landing was aborted and the crew worked with Mission Control in Houston to overcome numerous obstacles and return to Earth safely.
- 1972: Apollo 17 launched in this year, making it the sixth — and final — Apollo mission to reach the moon.
- 1986: The Johnson Space Center was the site of a massive memorial tribute in the wake of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. More then 6,000 NASA employees attended the memorial, and 4,000 guests also were in attendance, including the families of the astronauts who perished on board.
- 1993: With help from Mission Control and Houston and assistance from NASA's other sites around the country, a successful mission was carried out to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission involved piloting Space Shuttle Endeavor and carefully grappling and berthing the telescope into Endeavor's payload bay, something that could have proven disastrous if not for the high attention to detail from all parties involved.
- 2016: Space Center Houston, NASA's visitor's center at its Houston campus, hosted more than 1 million visitors, making it the biggest year ever in terms of activity. The venue is the top attraction for international visitors who come to Houston.
Houston and NASA are synonymous, and the two are only going to build more history together. Stay tuned.
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