Grace Kelly, Super Guppies & Men Who Shouldn't Wear Cowboy Hats: Great Old Photos of NASA's 50 Years in Houston

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Arcadia Publishing is a company specializing in affordable picture-filled books on local history across the country.

They've done books on such Houston institutions as the downtown Foley's, and now they've tackled the institution-alest Houston institution of all, NASA.

See Also: - "Tatooine" Discovery: Five Other Times NASA Has Drafted Off Star Wars' Heat - The Five Astronaut Autobiographies Everyone Should Read - Apollo 15, 40 Years On: Five Odd Facts (Including Faulty Peeing, a Very Irked NASA & the Coolest Lunar Experiment

Johnson Space Center: The First 50 Years is the name, edited by Laura Bruns and Mike Litchfield. It's loaded with photographic goodness; they've let us sample a couple of examples.

10. "I'd like to rent a house with a living room seating 450 people, please." New NASA employees transferred from Virginia needed housing, fast. And, by the looks of that top picture under "Houses for Rent," it was de rigueur to have an Astrodome-sized living room. The better to twist again like you did last summer, we suppose.

9. "And we'll have these, sir, in the gift shop right as visitors are ending their tour." John Kennedy doesn't look too sure just what to do with this detail-free model, while NASA director Bob Gilruth seems most impressed with the thing's base. Lyndon Johnson, the man who the whole damn thing would be named after, stands humbly engulfed by shadow, far out of JFK's light. And "humbly" was not a thing LBJ did well: You can almost see the frustration coming out of him, stuck back there with the goddamn second-rank.

8. The Shag-Rug Testing Chamber Not really -- the SRTC was far too smooth to have tile in it. (Also, it didn't exist.) What you're looking at is an anechoic chamber where a shuttle model, scaled 1/10, was used to conduct tests. If you stare at it long enough, it looks like a rejected set for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Or the downtown tunnel system, if you've taken acid.

7. The rejected slapstick scene from Apollo 13 A lot of people know Tom Hanks came down to the center to, among other things, shoot weightless scenes for Apollo 13. What they don't know is that the studio believed "the second half was getting a little boggy," so they proposed a wacky scene where Jim Lovell gets his foot stuck in a garbage can. Funnnnnyyyy Laaaayyyyy-deeee!!

6. "Sir, we appear to have lost half our plane." "Yes, the...ummmm.....front half, sir." Etc., etc. It's a Bob Newhart bit come to life. Or, on the other hand, it's a Super Guppy flying over Johnson Space Center. The Super Guppy, which made transporting huge parts easy for NASA, is not to be confused with the Pregnant Guppy, another NASA plane, albeit one that hung out with a faster crowd.

5. "This meeting of the Men Uncomfortably Wearing Cowboy Hats will now begin...." Note Gus Grissom, in the middle, already settling on a piece of tail for the evening's festivities.

4. "Sure, I got nothing better to do..." According to the book, this picture was taken "just weeks before the first manned Apollo mission," and it shows director of flight operations Chris Kraft giving an in-depth briefing to....McDonnell Douglas engineers? The communication guys? The team responsible for electrical shorts on Apollo 13?

No, the briefing during the run-up to a key mission is being given to....Grace Kelly. Best known for To Catch a Thief, Rear Window and High Society? (As opposed to, you know, offering great insight into potential space-travel glitches.) She's there in the middle, sitting next to husband Prince Rainier, also a noted space expert, apparently.

3. "Neil, Buzz & Mike. you have True Grit"... ...says the marquee. "Neil, Buzz & Mike, you have nothing in common with Midnight Cowboy," the other marquee doesn't add.

2. "Pay no attention to mmmmee -- bwarrrrppppp!!!" Forget about Shannon Lucid playfully spreading her wings in the foreground. Riding NASA's "Vomit Comet," we're sure, is an experience much more akin to that being undergone by the guy all the way in the back, trying to hide his head as he makes sure an empty bag is easily within reach.

1. The first 50 years will probably be better than the next 50. That seems a safe bet, but that shouldn't stop you from ordering the book, from Arcadia Publishing.

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