NASA to bring 'Space City Experience' to Freedom Over Texas

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Fifty years after mankind's giant leap with Apollo 11, NASA is paving another path to the moon. The goal of NASA's Artemis program is to send the first woman and the next man to the moon by 2024.

In celebration of 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, NASA is partnering with the city of Houston to bring a 'Space City Experience' to CITGO Freedom Over Texas on July 4th.

"We wanted to showcase the people, programs and technology that are going to get us back to the moon," said Shaneequa Vareen, Public Affairs Officer at Johnson Space Center. "People who come to the exhibit are going to be able to train like an astronaut. They're going to be able to drive a virtual reality rover on the moon's surface."

At the NASA Pavilion at CITGO Freedom Over Texas, guests will be able to try out the Boeing Starliner docking experience. The virtual reality simulation is used to help both astronauts and ground crew experience what it's like to fly the next generation Boeing Starliner CST-100 and dock at the International Space Station.

Also on display will be an 18,000 pound mockup of an Orion capsule, which is NASA's spacecraft designed to take astronauts back to the moon aboard a heavy-lift rocket. The mockup is known as a PORT (Post-landing Orion Recovery Tests) capsule.

"We have a wave machine at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, which is essentially the world's largest indoor swimming pool," said Jack Moore, Exhibits Program Supervisor at Johnson Space Center. "We'll take PORT capsule, put it down in the water, and we'll have subtle waves. We can practice going in there, opening up the spacecraft, helping our astronauts evacuate out of the capsule, and then getting them back to safety after they've returned to the moon."

Guests will also be able to get up close to NASA robotics that will support the Artemis mission, including Robonaut One, a human-like robot that can assist astronauts during spacewalks, and Spidernaut, an eight-legged extra-vehicular robot. NASA's next generation astronaut rover, the Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV), will also be featured.

"The SEV has 12 wheel bases, 24 wheels total, and it can essentially drive like a crab," said Moore. "Each one of the wheels can spin 360 degrees, so it can literally turn and keep its position on a dime. It also gives us a lot of flexibility. This vehicle can essentially kneel down to get closer to rocks and the astronauts can look at surface features through portholes without ever having to leave the spacecraft."

ABC13 went behind the scenes at Johnson Space Center in the video above to check out some of the NASA features that will be on display July 4th. For more information on CITGO Freedom Over Texas, click here.
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