Texas Brazos Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Space Exploration

Control panels inside a NASA simulator
NASA Base simulator, Houston


It all began in 1957. The Soviet Union had successfully launched a rocket into space, a global first that startled the U.S. into action. A national commitment to build-up our space exploration program, including achieving human-controlled space flight, quickly reached priority status and the “space race” commenced. Texas would play a huge role in the space exploration advances with the establishment of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center south of Houston. The facility is one of nine National Aeronautics and Space Administration field installations in the country and home base for the program’s astronauts. A stunning series of technical accomplishments would follow including Project Mercury, designed to launch a manned space capsule into orbit. But the Soviets beat us to the punch once again, launching their own manned orbiter first, spurring President John F. Kennedy to set a national goal of achieving a manned landing on the moon by 1969. This time we were the first. Since that historic event, our achievements in space exploration have been on a grand scale, and their results have revealed insights into the mysteries of the universe from dark matter to star formation. Our advances have reached such complexity that, today, private industry has begun to take over what we might consider the more mundane tasks of space, including space flight, satellite launching, and space station travel. And the LBJ Space Center, with its entertaining and educational museum and tours, has become one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Not surprising, however. Its attractions are literally “out of this world.”

Map of Theme

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Donor: Gordon Wilkison
Sound | 1965
Film courtesy Texas Archive of the Moving Image

This footage from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) details the practice of planning redundant systems in spacecraft design to guard against equipment failure. Specifically discussed is the Gemini 9 spacecraft a 1966 manned space flight, the seventh manned Gemini flight, the thirteenth American space flight, and the twenty-third space flight of all time. The Gemini was to dock with the Augmented Target Docking Adaptor (ATDA) depicted in the film. At the time of the filming, NASA was readying the ATDA for launch at Cape Kennedy, Florida


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Read more about the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in the Handbook of Texas Online.