CLEAR LAKE — It might not have been the real thing but the arrival of the mock-up space shuttle created quite a buzz Friday on Clear Lake.
People packed the Kemah Boardwalk took to the water by boat personal watercraft and kayaks lined the banks of Clear Lake Shores and League City just for a glimpse at the 122-foot replica that is nearing the end of its eight-day journey from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Space Center Houston.
”It was pretty cool” Bayou Vista resident Lee Lockwood said.
He and a large group of friends anchored their boats at the mouth of the Clear Creek Channel at Clear Lake. They had one of the best views of the replica as it was towed on its barge through the channel and to the Johnson Space Center’s dock on the north shore.
”We were probably about 75 yards from it at most.”
Lockwood’s entourage included his girlfriend DeLynne Collins; Jason Coehn of Texas City; Jeff Campbell of Santa Fe; and about 30 others who tied their boats together to await the shuttle replica’s arrival.
Debra Dallas’ vantage point was indoors from the restaurant of the Nassau Bay Hilton. The visit to the dock to watch the replica come into town was bittersweet for the Friendswood resident.
FRIDAY was her last day on the job for Bastion Technologies a contractor for the United Space Alliance which operated the space shuttle program for NASA.
”I’m excited and angry at the same time” Dallas said. ”This is not what I wanted to happen. I wanted to see the real thing out of the space program come here. It’s very appropriate to see this fake shuttle come up Clear Creek.”
While it’s not the real deal the replica might be a tool to help Johnson Space Center inspire the next generation of space engineers and astronauts.
”If this had been a real shuttle no one would be able to go on board and walk through to see it” said retired astronaut Jerry Ross a veteran of seven space flights. ”This may be the best thing after all. This way kids can see up close what it was like aboard the shuttle.”
Richard Allen president of Space Center Houston said the cockpit of the shuttle mock-up will be updated to the equipment used by the final shuttle crews.
Lisa McCreery of Dickinson a former NASA employee said she wished the barge was carrying a real shuttle. Still she brought her grandson Jordan O’Connell to the waterfront to see it.
”I thought it would be very exciting for my grandson to see” McCreery said. ”It’s a certain point of history that’s going away.”
O’Connell was pretty excited — real deal or replica. The Bay Colony Elementary School third-grader was impressed with the fireworks that were set off when the replica finally made it to the dock.
There’s more of a show to come. today crews are scheduled to lift the replica off the barge onto a semitrailer. Then on Sunday it will be hauled down NASA Parkway for a 1.4-mile trek to Space Center Houston. The trip will take three to four hours officials said.
Once it arrives at Space Center Houston the visitors center for the Johnson Space Center will have a family day in the parking lot to allow visitors to get a bit closer to the replica.
Allen said he expects the mock-up which was called Explorer in Florida but is expected to be renamed to open for public tours by fall.
At A Glance
Shuttlebration road closures:
The eastbound right lane of NASA Parkway will remain closed from Lagoon Drive to Space Center Boulevard today.
NASA Parkway will be closed from El Camino Real to Space Center Boulevard 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday.
NASA Road 1 Bypass will be closed to eastbound traffic 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday.