NASA Touches Down at Super Bowl Festival

space and football
NASA and some spaceflight companies will be involved in the nine-day festival accompanying the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston. (Image credit: NASA)

It's almost time for the 2017 Super Bowl, and visitors to the game's host city of Houston should make their way to Discovery Green in the city's downtown starting tomorrow (Jan. 28). There, they'll find a very special space-centric experience

Houston is, of course, home to NASA's Johnson Space Center, so it was fitting that NASA and various private spaceflight companies should contribute to Super Bowl Live, the nine-day festival starting Saturday (Jan. 28) that will lead up to the big game. The primary attraction of the festival is a Mars-themed ride called "Future Flight," which takes riders on a trip to Mars and back using virtual reality goggles on a 90-foot (27 meters) drop-tower ride. 

Practicing #SB51 football skills w/ @Thom_astro & @astro_kimbrough. I got a bit worried when Shane yelled "go long”.

In general, the mix of space and football will be strong in Houston this coming week. Meanwhile, up on the space station, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson volunteered to let two of her crewmates throw her like a football, demonstrating the joys of microgravity.

Visitors to the 250,000-square-foot (76,000 square meters) expanse of Super Bowl Live will "get a chance to see a model of NASA's Orion spacecraft that's used for water-recovery training, a replica of the Mars Curiosity rover currently exploring the Red Planet, a rover-like space-exploration vehicle concept that could be used for in-space missions or to explore planetary surfaces, space station exhibits, and other interactive space-related content," according to a statement from NASA

There are also displays and exhibits from companies in the spaceflight industry, like a virtual reality trip to Mars via Lockheed Martin. Northrop Grumman will set up its full-size replica of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, the real version of which is scheduled to launch in 2018. Other companies that contributed exhibits to the festival include Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Orbital ATK and the Raytheon Company. 

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Calla Cofield
Senior Writer

Calla Cofield joined's crew in October 2014. She enjoys writing about black holes, exploding stars, ripples in space-time, science in comic books, and all the mysteries of the cosmos. Prior to joining Calla worked as a freelance writer, with her work appearing in APS News, Symmetry magazine, Scientific American, Nature News, Physics World, and others. From 2010 to 2014 she was a producer for The Physics Central Podcast. Previously, Calla worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (hands down the best office building ever) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Calla studied physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is originally from Sandy, Utah. In 2018, Calla left to join NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory media team where she oversees astronomy, physics, exoplanets and the Cold Atom Lab mission. She has been underground at three of the largest particle accelerators in the world and would really like to know what the heck dark matter is. Contact Calla via: E-Mail – Twitter