Astronaut Hangout to Close After 30 Years

Astronaut Hangout to Close After 30 Years
Once an Air Force barrack, the Outpost Tavern is closing in Jan. 2010 after three decades as an astronaut hangout. (Image credit: Outpost Tavern)

A formerAir Force barrack-turned-bar that counted astronauts among its regularpatrons will close next month after more than three decades servingthe NASA community in Houston.

"The Outpost is closing... and this time, it is for good,"wrote owner Stephanie Foster in a note added Tuesday tothe Webster, Texas tavern's Web site. "All-in-all, you mustadmit that it has been an interesting and fun run for this littlebar."

The "little bar", located just down the road from NASA's JohnsonSpace Center, has been a landmark for space history enthusiasts, in partfor what its patronage have left behind: The Outpost's walls are linedin spacememorabilia ranging from astronaut-autographed photos to posters anddecals.

The bar's atmosphere, which brought in a stream of space program veterans,also attracted stars. The 1997 comedy "Rocketman" releasedby Walt Disney Pictures filmed a scene at the Outpost, but the bar'smost famous cameo came three years later with Clint Eastwood andTommy Lee Jones in the Warner Bros. film "Space Cowboys."

From barracks to a bar

The Outpost did not start out as an astronaut hangout but rather a bunk forpilots.

"The history of the building itself is unique," the tavern's Web site explains,"it began life as a World War Two Air Force barracks atthe nearby Ellington Air Force Base before being moved to itspresent location in 1965 to serve as a barbecue shack."

The bar first began to attract the NASA crowd as "Fort Terry'sThe Universal Joint" until it was sold in 1980 and opened the nextyear as the Outpost.

"I was about 11 years old when the [bar] first opened as'The Outpost,'" wrote Foster. "And now I have two kids and justcelebrated my something-ith-birthday. Some who have been coming inhave been there for longer, since it was Fort Terry's. You know who youare!"

The Outpost came close to permanently shutting its doors in 2000 when itsgrill -- used to cook burgers and freshly cut fries -- was deemed unsafeby the fire marshal. With bills mounting and other utilities breakingdown, the future of the Outpost looked bleak.

A community-driven "Save the Outpost" campaign raised the fundsfor renovations, including a new grill, and the bar resumed full servicein Feb. 2001.

The barn-like building was threatened once more in 2005 when, on Jan. 28,an electrical short in the Outpost's neon sign began a fire burning throughthe roof. Once again the community responded and the Outpost reopened onlya week later.

"[We] have kept the Outpost Tavern going for the last thirty years,it has stayed open," Foster wrote. "Good or bad, whatever anyonethinks of how we did it, we kept it open for you!"

Closing their way

"Like many good things in life, sometimes 'we' are not in charge,"Foster explained on the Outpost's Web site.

The land on which the tavern stands has been sold, which left the fate of theOutpost uncertain.

"Rather than wait, wondering when or if someone would come in andsay 'get out by Friday,' I would like to give everyone notice thatin January, we close," said Foster.

"This way, we can enjoy the place a while longer, and make plans onhow to save what we can," she continued. "I would rather havethe Outpost close my way, instead of having someone shut us down oneday without so much as a 'fare-well.'"

Continuing in the spirit of the NASA parties and gatherings that were heldat the bar over the past three decades, the Outpost plans togo out with a bash.

"To end the Outpost Tavern, we will have one hell of ablow-out thirtieth anniversary party," concluded Foster's note."Hope everyone can attend!"

Visit forcoverage of the Outpost as it closes, including what will become of itsmemorabilia.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.