Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, celebrated its 25th anniversary with a stellar fundraiser at the Hilton Americas-Houston. The nonprofit, which opened in 1992, is dedicated to inspiring people, including underserved students, with hands-on science learning.
The “Galaxy Gala" was led by chairs Keith and Alice Mosing, along with co-chairs Kim and Dan Tutcher and honorary chairs astronaut Scott Kelly, his girlfriend Amiko Kauderer, and astronaut Mark Kelly and his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
More than 600 guests entered the cocktail reception area to find an awe-inspiring collection of Space Center Houston and NASA Johnson Space Center artifacts, boasting items like Robonaut, a robot designed to work alongside astronauts and replace them in dangerous situations (Robonaut "R2" is currently at the International Space Station), a space garden chamber used to grow seeds via special LED lights, and a rare meteorite.
Once seated inside the ballroom, the crowd was treated to an appearance by Expedition 50 NASA astronauts commander Shane Kimbrough and flight engineer Peggy Whitson. Both are currently living and working aboard the International Space Station and streamed in to share their support of the organization. “I understand that more than a million people visit Space Center Houston each year. One of the surest ways to inspire the next generation, is to capture their imagination early,” Kimbrough said.
“The cause of inspiration and education will continue to make Houston a great and diverse community. Congratulations to Space Center Houston on this tremendous milestone. We’ll see you back on earth real soon,” Whitson added.
An interstellar fashion show followed. Narrated by astronaut Mike Foreman and Johnson Space Center associate director Melanie Saunders, the collection featured several space suits, including an Orion prototype, launch and entry suits, planetary surface exploration suits, and three space suit replicas handpainted by young cancer patients participating in the University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital’s Space Suit Art Project.
As though the evening wasn't already a blast, Golden Globe award-winning actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band hit the stage for an energized set of rock tunes. The cover band was co-founded by Sinise to raise money for disabled veterans.
The out-of-this-world evening, which honored longtime supporters Susie and Pat Cunningham for their significant contributions to the center, raised more than $850,000 for the STEM education programs of Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, a nonprofit science and space learning center with Space Center Houston as the cornerstone of its education mission.
Guests included president and CEO of Space Center Houston William T. Harris, Johnson Space Center director and astronaut Ellen Ochoa (who was the first Hispanic woman to go into space), retired Gemini and Apollo flight director Gene Kranz, Bob Behnken, Walt and Dot Cunningham, Betsy and Fred Griffin, Lisa and Jerry Simon, Gena and Chuck Norris, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Joan and Larry Del Papa, Leslie and Adam Schneider, Joy and Stewart Morris Jr., Lorrie Foreman, Gracie and Bob Cavnar, Walter Johnson, Ann Parks Stallings, Judy Oudt, Lacy Baird, and Sara Leighton.