Computerized rendering of the placement at the city's Parks and Recreation Department office of the bronze statue of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the steel panel artwork depicting astronaut John Glenn in his space capsule.
A 9-foot-tall bronze statue of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and an 8-and-half-foot-tall steel panel depicting American astronaut John Glenn were unveiled at the city’s Parks Department headquarters Monday.
Why there? Because the office on South Wayside was the first NASA headquarters.
Mayor Annise Parker told a group that included NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Russian diplomats and relatives of Gagarin:
Too many Houstonians have lost the history of what has happened over the years in Houston. We are a city that always looks forward, that looks to the new. But we are also a city with deep and rich history in many areas, and most especially in human spaceflight. The city of Houston knows this building as the headquarters of the Houston parks department, and historians may know it as the Gragg Building. But real historians and those who are passionate about the history of the space program in Houston know this building as the first headquarters for human spaceflight (in the U.S.A.).
Chronicle intern David Haydon, who was there to witness the unveiling, also reports that Parker spoke about how it was inconceivable a half century ago, with the space race and Cold War raging, that one day American astronauts would travel to an international space station on a Russian rocket.
Russian donors had at first offered just the Gagarin sculpture. Parker said she asked the Russians to also donate the Glenn monument to signify the current spirit of cooperation between the countries. The $87,000 cost of the works and their installation comes at no cost to taxpayers.
Galina Gagarin, the cosmonaut’s daughter, said through a translator:
We hope that this composition will contribute to the further successful cooperation between the Russian and American peoples. And the characters of two brave young men, Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn, will inspire further generations.
Sophia Tabarovsky, who helped arrange the donated works through her International Charity Public Fund Dialogue of Cultures — United World, added that she hopes that children who visit the site “will dream about space and space exploration again.”
Here’s a photo taken at the Parks Department’s Gragg Building in its previous incarnation as NASA HQ: