On Aug. 6, the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston rolled out the red carpet to show support for Tyler Martin and pay tribute to his father, fallen Houston Police Officer Richard Martin.
Tyler and his guests were treated to a special VIP tour and behind the scenes access to the space center facilities.
Accompanying Tyler on the tour were his mother, Kim; HPD Chaplain Monty Montgomery; Officer Ken Cech and his twin children, Audrey and Austin; Officer Todd Young; and Officer Sara Calderon.
The tour commenced with meeting Robonaut. Dr. Ron Diftler, Robonaut Project Manager, explained that a Robonaut lives outside the International Space Station (ISS) where it transverses rails to perform tasks such as moving equipment and supplies from module to module. Tyler learned that Robonaut performs activities that previously required an astronaut to leave the safety of the ISS and venture outside on a spacewalk. Dr. Diftler demonstrated the range of motion of Robonaut’s arms and the high dexterity of Robonaut’s hands that operate much like human hands.
The HPD Bomb Squad could certainly use a Robonaut!
Eddie Paddock welcomed Tyler and his guests to the Virtual Reality (VR) Lab where Tyler donned the same gloves and headgear that astronauts use to train for spacewalks and to develop procedures and protocols for their treks outside the space station. Tyler explored the outside of the ISS and marveled at the virtual view of the earth and stars.
Norm Knight, Chief of the Flight Director Office, escorted Tyler through the historic Apollo Mission Operations Control Room where flight controllers directed the first lunar landing. In the ISS Flight Control Room, Tyler joined flight controller Jessica Violetta at her console where he operated controls to move and point one of the many television cameras onboard the ISS.
Jessica informed Tyler that he issued commands to the ISS that she trained for a year to be certified to perform. Norm Knight explained that not just anybody gets to move the camera. The honor is usually reserved for visiting heads of state such as the President of the United States.
NASA paid tribute to Tyler’s father by displaying on a screen in front of the flight controllers’ consoles the words “In Memory of Houston Police Officer Richard Keith Martin, End of Watch, May 18, 2015,” along with a photo of Officer Martin. The employees and administration of the Johnson Space Center wanted to show their respect to Tyler and acknowledge his loss while also honoring the sacrifice made by his father.
Officer Martin becomes the second police officer honored in a Mission Control tribute. The first, MIT Officer Sean Collier, who was murdered by the Boston bombers, was memorialized last year when his brother, Andrew, visited the space center.
Tyler impressed everyone with the way he handled the tribute. Norm Knight put an arm around Tyler and said, “you are stronger than I am.”
Before Tyler left Mission Control, Norm presented him with a plaque depicting the official emblem of Flight Operations.
Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who has flown on both the Space Shuttle Orbiter and the ISS, gave Tyler and his guests personal insight into flying in space. She toured the group through the mockups of the Space Shuttle cockpit and mid-deck and the ISS Japanese science module, the Russian FGB habitability module, and a replica of the cupola, the astronaut’s favorite place onboard the ISS with 360 degree windows for viewing space and the earth.
The group received a vision into the future with an explanation of the Orion spacecraft mockup being developed for human space flight to the moon or Mars.
The next stop on Tyler’s NASA tour took him to the Sonny Carter Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) located east of Ellington Field.
For the trip from the Johnson Space Center to the NBL, HPD’s Clear Lake Patrol honored Tyler with a police escort for the caravan of guests’ private vehicles.
Clear Lake DRT Officers, and siblings, Brenda and Jesus Thomas and Community Relations Officer Richard Buitron provided the escort. The Clear Lake officers wanted to let Tyler know that his father’s sacrifice would never be forgotten and to show their respect for Tyler’s loss.
At the NBL, Tyler met with astronauts who had just completed training in the water for an upcoming spacewalk. He learned how the astronauts train in the pool amongst ISS module mockups and use the buoyancy of the water to simulate zero gravity. Tyler also was shown a replica of the space suit astronauts wear on spacewalks.
Tyler and his guests were escorted on the tour by Susan Anderson of the JSC Protocol Office and Patrick Buzzard of the JSC Protective Services Division.