Monday, December 6, 2010

Fry's Space Station


Today, I'm uncharacteristically featuring a "tourist attraction" of sorts near the NASA Johnson Space Center… though I wonder how many of visitors to Houston find this gem?

Technically, it's a retail store masquerading as a nerd mecca, and I'm not promoting anything it sells in particular, but it's worth a visit. The exterior is made to look like the International Space Station, and the interior features a giant scale replica of the ISS -- not accurate down to each specific piece, but darned close, down to the mechanical CanadArms!

Fry's Electronics in Webster (Southeast of Houston)
The South Houston Store: ISS Theme

Fry's Electronics, Inc. was founded in Silicon Valley to supply hi-tech professionals, and now has 34 stores in nine states, ranging from 50,000 to 180,000 square feet! Each store carries its own unique theme, so they are really fun parks in a sense. Stores across the USA have Aztec, Egyptian, Roman, Mayan, Tahitian and Wild West themes… also, would you believe Atlantis and Alice in Wonderland? Of course, the Anaheim store is worth a mention here, since their theme is the NASA flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavor, complete with launches on huge TV screens (shown on the weekends).

The store nearest Space Center Houston depicts the history of space exploration in murals and artifacts, along with the "true-to-life-sized" floating habitat. No small feat, since the ISS is now roughly equal to the length of a football field!

Fry's ISS Replica
Click to see the entire gallery...

The above photo is a view of the Russian Orbital Segment of the International Space Station, as seen from the Software section of the store. Full-scale mockups (from left to right) of the Soyuz capsule, the Zvezda ("Star") module, and the Zarya ("Dawn") module can be seen, beneath the actual-sized solar arrays.

I walked all around the store, photographing the space-themed paintings and structures, and uploaded all the results to the Houston gallery in my Picasa Albums… where you can also see the various spacecrafts, tethered space-walkers, the Japanese Kibo module, the American Unity (node 1), the Destiny Lab and all the various truss segments... some of which have been "tunneled out" to accommodate products or seating areas.

Such a novelty! I should have taken video. If anyone visits the space themed Burbank or Anaheim stores, I'd love to see your photos, too... email me!