Glenn and Gagarin - Houston, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member jhuoni
N 29° 42.417 W 095° 19.017
15R E 275850 N 3288560
Quick Description: Located at the Farnsworth & Chambers Building which was once the headquarters of the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), a tribute to two firsts in space.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 2/18/2020 4:34:12 PM
Waymark Code: WM123N3
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Thot
Views: 2

Long Description:

From Roadside America Space Buddies

Houston, Texas

A strange monument stands at the headquarters of Houston's Department of Parks and Recreation. The building was originally the headquarters of NASA, and on its front lawn are a series of upright metal panels, cleverly perforated to produce a large photo-dot image of John Glenn in his spacesuit, the first astronaut to orbit the Earth (the dots are shaped like tiny Mercury capsules).

Next to this art is a bronze statue of a man wearing a simple dress shirt and trousers, throwing his arms gleefully skyward as if standing on the prow of the Titanic. Who is he, some NASA administrator?

No, it's Yuri Gagarin, the first man, a cosmonaut, to orbit the Earth.

The Gagarin statue was a gift from the Russians, and faces the distant skyscrapers of downtown Houston as if thrilled to see them (Yuri never did see Houston -- or anywhere in the U.S. -- but he was known for his infectious smile). The tributes, unveiled in 2012, are meant to show that space exploration is all about cooperation nowadays, even if it wasn't in the heyday of John and Yuri.

Gagarin appreciation has since become an annual event -- April 12 is when "Yuri's Night" parties occur in museums and cities around the the world, celebrating spaceflight and the anniversary of his 1961 milestone.

From the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form - Farnsworth & Chambers Building

NASA and Project Mercury

The most significant part of the Farnsworth & Chambers building's history is its use as the headquarters for the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in Houston while the Clear Lake campus was being designed and constructed. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began in October 1958, absorbing the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and other government agencies. Based largely at Virginia's Langley Research Center, which had been established in 1917 as an aeronautics testing center, NASA immediately set out to create a space exploration program with Project Mercury and the Space Task Group.

The Mercury program had three primary objectives: to place a manned spacecraft in orbital flight around the Earth, to investigate the impact of space conditions, such as zero- or low-gravity, on human functions and capabilities, and recover both the spacecraft and its passenger safely.Authorized in 1958, Project Mercury sought to "[develop] more sophisticated spacecraft which will carry trained scientific observers into orbit around the earth and on interplanetary fiights." In 1961, NASA chose for its new headquarters land in Clear Lake donated by Rice University; the 1,000-acre tract was called Site 1. While Site 1 was being developed, NASA had several satellite offices in the vicinity of South Wayside for personnel and laboratories. Its headquarters for the MSC and Mercury program were in the Farnsworth & Chambers Building, designated "Site 2," from 1962-1964." Mercury astronauts including Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton as well as project director Robert Rowe Gilmth maintained offices in the building. At this time, no other facilities primarily associated with Project Mercury are known to be listed in the National Register.

The political maneuvering necessary to bring the MSC to Houston was largely orchestrated by Albert Thomas (1898- 1966), a 15-term Congressman from Houston and Harris County's Eighth District. Houston was among several other contenders including Jacksonville, Florida (Green Cove Springs Naval Station); Tampa, Florida (MacDill Air Force Base); Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Shreveport, Louisiana (Barksdale Air Force Base); Victoria, Texas (FAA Airport); Corpus Christi, Texas (Naval Air Station); San Diego, California (Camp Elliott); and San Francisco, Califomia (Benicia Ordnance Depot). Specific site criteria were developed to facilitate the search. "The site required access to water transportation by large barges, a moderate climate, availability of all-weather commercial jet service, a well-established industrial complex with supporting technical facilities and labor, close proximity to a culturally attractive community in the vicinity of an institution of higher education, a strong electric utility and water supply, at least 1,000 acres of land, and certain specified cost parameters." Houston actually came in second place to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa because the Air Force planned to close its Strategic Air Command operations there. In third place was the Benicia Ordnance Depot in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before a decision and public announcement was made, the Air Force decided not to close McDill and thus Houston moved to first place. The needed 1,000 acres of land was committed by Rice University and was once part of the estate of James Marion West (1871-1941), a Houston banker and publisher.

7 Days a week. Weekend would be better since this is at the Houston Parks and Recreation Department Headquarters.

The display is lighted and may have a different effect at night.

Fee (if no fee, enter 'none'): None

How Long a Hike: Relatively close to parking lot

Amount of time an average person would spend here: Less than an hour

Accessible?: yes

Location is wheelchair accessible?: No

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