Astros celebrate 50 years of NASA

Astros celebrate 50 years of NASA

HOUSTON -- The Astros have, by default of their team nickname, always been linked to NASA, so it was fitting that Houston celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the creation of the space program before Tuesday's game.

In celebration of the day President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill to approve the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Astros sported a black patch on the right sleeve of their uniforms, and commemorative baseball caps were given to the first 10,000 fans to enter Minute Maid Park.

The seven astronauts scheduled to conduct NASA's next flight into space, STS-126, in November, met with Astros chairman and CEO Drayton McLane and pitcher Chris Sampson prior to the game, and McLane spoke of his love for the space program.

"A great part of our lives today -- the technology, the advancements we have -- are byproducts of the space program," he said. "I'm probably the only person here who remembers when the space program started."

Chris Ferguson, commander of STS-126, said the crew's mission is to increase the International Space Station's housing capabilities so that it can be home for six people full-time for six months.

They are also bringing equipment that will allow the Space Station to recycle nearly all of the liquid water used.

"Having the capability like that is very important for following space stations," Ferguson said. "If you want to go live on the moon for six months or even beyond that, or onto Mars, it's very important that we are able to recycle just about everything.

The crew will also conduct four spacewalks, both to deploy "orbital replacement units" on the Space Station and to repair the "Solar alpha-rotary join," which harnesses power for the sun so that the Space Station can generate its own energy.

Krysten Oliphant is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.