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Reignite Your Imagination about Space Exploration

 
Reignite Your Imagination about Space Exploration
Posted February 10th, 2014 @ 3:01am by KTRH’s Nikki Courtney

The City of Webster is creating a landmark for the greater Houston area to be called The Apollo Center, located off the Gulf Freeway and NASA Parkway.  Future generations will know it in the context of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the St. Louis Arch and Big Ben. 

World-renowned artist and sculptor David Adickes, creator of the Sam Houston statue in Huntsville, is designing an 80-foot statue of an Apollo-era astronaut planting an American flag, modeled after Neil Armstrong, standing atop a 50-foot building containing a visitor’s center.

“We want to put elevators in the legs so that they go all the way up to the actual top of the space visor where we will have a promenade much like the top of the Statue of Liberty,” says Apollo and Beyond board member Posey Parker.

Apollo was an era of idealism and dreams spanning an infinite universe of unexplored wonder.  It was a decade to go to the moon and beyond.  It was a time when each American followed every detail of the nation’s space program, knew the names of all the astronauts, and stood proudly awed by successive accomplishments each more spectacular than the last.  David Adickes statue is homage to the legacy of Apollo and a beacon for a vision of the future. 

“We believe that NASA Parkway, such an iconic street, and Apollo really set things in motion, the legacy is just unbelievable,” Dr. Betsy Giusto, Economic Development Director for the City of Webster, tells KTRH News.  But don’t for a moment think this is about the past.  “The focus is the future of space exploration internationally.”

Next to the statue will be a 20,000 sq. ft. visitor’s center that will invite visitors to peer into the future of space science, travel and destiny.  Tribute to how we got here, and focus on where we are going.

Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz is a member of the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame, veteran of seven Shuttle missions, and when he retired in 2005 became president and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company. He offers a window into what we can expect.

“You will see a very strong participation of the private sector, and also a change in the chemistry of space exploration -- to become an endeavor where many nations participate.  In the old days, in the Apollo days, it was a binary chemistry, with the US and the Soviet Union competing in the sky and the rest of the world would just watch.  What we have today is a growing number of countries that have the capability to fly in space and a couple more that have the ability to fly humans into space. That number is growing.”

The goal of Apollo and Beyond is to bring the world of space engineers and scientists together, in Houston, to cooperate on privately-funded, commercial space endeavors.  Billy Burge is president of Ayrshire Corporation, a company his father co-founded.  Private commercial space ventures are in his blood.  On September 9, 1982 Ayrshire, with David Hannah, Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton and others launched the first ever private commercial space vehicle, the Conestoga I.  It was an 18 minute flight with a dummy payload out of Matagorda that was decades ahead of its time.  Finally, time has caught up with Billy Burge, a true man of vision.

“We’re preparing a business plan to establish in the city of Webster a collaborative facility where countries could own their own business space, send their own people in, where the collaboration would be on a daily basis and not just for one project, and work on the future of space technology,” Burge tells KTRH News.

Last week Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz were on a trade mission in South Africa and outlined for business leaders the city’s vision for a commercial spaceport at Ellington Airport.

“Houston will play a lead role in commercial space operations in the 21st century,” says Mayor Parker.  “We have the necessary facilities, the required educated workforce and the dynamic economy needed to sustain these types of operations.  All of this is in addition to the fact that the name Houston is virtually synonymous with space exploration activity.”

And soon, in Webster, we will have a 180-foot high global landmark that will compel visitors to look upwards, to remember where we have been and inspire each imagination to lead us forward.

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