According to a February 5, 2014 story in the Houston Chronicle, the city of Webster, where NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center is located, plans to build the Apollo and Beyond Center on city land next to I45. The centerpiece of the center will be an 80 foot high statue of an Apollo astronaut planting an American flag on top of a 50 foot pedestal, making the entire statue 130 feet tall. The edifice is to be executed by Houston artist David Adickes. It will be designed to withstand inclement weather, including a hurricane.
The statue would be similar to the Statue of Liberty in that the pedestal would contain a small museum and visitors would be able to take an elevator to an observation deck in the astronaut’s helmet for a panoramic view of the area south of Houston.
A visitor’s center would be located next to the statue that would likely contain a gift shop, some exhibits, and conference space. The whole could be tied into a space port that many envision being established at nearby Ellington Field.
Webster is already the location for Space Center Houston, the official visitor’s center for NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center. The Apollo and Beyond Center will have no official ties with either.
The plan for the Apollo and Beyond Center, with the astronaut statue that will dominate the landscape for miles around, comes during a period of malaise and uncertainty for NASA and America’s space program. With the end of the space shuttle program and plans for exploring space beyond low Earth orbit hobbled by a lack of direction and funding, the idea of building an astronaut statue the size of an Egyptian pharaoh smacks of focusing on past glories as a balm for a rather dispiriting present. Will the center serve as an inspiration of further space exploration or, like an Egyptian edifice, will it be a tomb for what once was?