The Machine Shop in Space Science

I’m having an incredibly busy week, with things happening so fast I can hardly keep up. I mentioned on Monday that I’d been over in Space Science and today is the first time I’ve had a minute to show you what I saw over there. Preparations for a major renovation are underway and the machine shop down in the basement has been cleared out:

It’s hard to imagine looking at it now but this is one of the most consequential rooms in the history of the institution. Built with NASA funding in the 1960s the new high-tech machine shop was a symbol of Rice’s push into the space age. Among other things they built satellites in here:

It was also consequential in a homelier way. Soon after the shop went into operation disputes began to rage about which departments and projects had priority on the use of these resources. These intractable arguments grew tiresome to the senior administration and became one of the catalysts for the separation of Science and Engineering into two schools in the early ’70s.

Here’s the same spot in 1965:

So where did the machine shop go, I hear you ask. Deliciously, right back to where it used to be in the north end of Abercrombie:

Bonus: Whatever they paid for this thing, they got their money’s worth.

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3 Responses to The Machine Shop in Space Science

  1. Keith Tipton says:

    But _why_ are they moving this institution within an institution? Will they move it back later?

  2. marmer01 says:

    Seems like I heard they were building a clean room.

  3. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    The bonus picture is of a Dake compound leverage arbor press. They’re still in business.

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