Space buddies.

Spaceman Buddies

Field review by the editors.

Houston, Texas

A strange monument stands at the headquarters of Houston's Department of Parks and Recreation. The building was originally the headquarters of NASA, and on its front lawn are a series of upright metal panels, cleverly perforated to produce a large photo-dot image of John Glenn in his spacesuit, the first astronaut to orbit the Earth (the dots are shaped like tiny Mercury capsules).

Next to this art is a bronze statue of a man wearing a simple dress shirt and trousers, throwing his arms gleefully skyward as if standing on the prow of the Titanic. Who is he, some NASA administrator?

No, it's Yuri Gagarin, the first man, a cosmonaut, to orbit the Earth.

The Gagarin statue was a gift from the Russians, and faces the distant skyscrapers of downtown Houston as if thrilled to see them (Yuri never did see Houston -- or anywhere in the U.S. -- but he was known for his infectious smile). The tributes, unveiled in 2012, are meant to show that space exploration is all about cooperation nowadays, even if it wasn't in the heyday of John and Yuri.

Gagarin appreciation has since become an annual event -- April 12 is when "Yuri's Night" parties occur in museums and cities around the the world, celebrating spaceflight and the anniversary of his 1961 milestone.

Spaceman Buddies

2999 S. Wayside Drive, Houston, TX
Southeast side of the city. I-45 exit 42, then turn south onto Wayside Drive. Drive a half-mile to the monuments, on the left.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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