National Geographic : 1967 Sep
Home town of the moon race, the Manned Spacecraft Center (below, right) spreads like a university across 1,620 acres southeast of Houston. Ponds, curving walks, and young trees set off its dozens of modern buildings. But no school warrants the heavily guarded gates of the command post, where astronauts, backed up by more than 10,500 government and private employees, train for voyages beyond the earth (pages 354-5). When the space men soar aloft, an army of scientists and technicians stands watch at Mission Control in the MSC complex, maintaining second-by-second contact. So space minded has the city of Houston become that even playground gear assumes shapes of fanciful rockets, like the climbers' cage in Hermann Park (right). "Enthusiastic unofficial members of the Houston Chamber of Commerce," Jean Gilruth labels herself and husband Robert, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Cen ter. "We like the climate, the wide-open spaces, the sense of drive, and the pride in community," she explains. Dickinson Bayou, where the Gilruths live, combines the refinements of urban living and the pleasures of the 350 rural. Trusting raccoon enjoys a handout on the patio.