The Longhorn Project at Johnson Space Center is a one-of-a-kind hands-on educational program created as a joint venture among The Longhorn Project, a 501(c) (3) charitable nonprofit organization, NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), the Houston Livestock and RodeoTM, Clear Creek Independent School District, and the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America.
Retired Johnson Space Center (JSC) Director George W. S. Abbey had been searching for ways to make resources of our center available to the educational community, in order to fulfill NASA's goal of taking a more proactive role in community affairs. A faded photograph on the wall of his office of cattle coming home to feed provided him with inspiration. That inspiration has culminated in The Longhorn Project at Johnson Space Center.
That photograph taken in 1960 showed cattle grazing at the 20,000-acre West Ranch, then owned by the heirs of James Marion West, Sr., co-founder, and chairman of Humble Oil & Refining Company (the predecessor of Exxon Corporation). A 1,600-acre portion of the West Ranch adjacent to Clear Lake is home today of Johnson Space Center. Cattle still graze on the few undeveloped acres that compromise the balance of the once giant ranch, which now contains homes, shopping centers, and petrochemical complexes.
Abbey recognized the need for the school district to have a large tract of land in which to develop a “hands-on” agricultural education facility. Subsequent discussions between Mr. Abbey, Dr. John E. Wilson, Ph.D., Past Superintendent of Clear Creek Independent School District, Mr. Dan Gattis, Past General Manager of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America have resulted in these four entities joining forces to develop the first of its kind facility for furthering agricultural education and providing the basis of international cooperation in agriculture-related studies and scientific efforts.
Dr. Sandra Mossman, past Superintendent of Clear Creek Independent School District, championed the initiative to incorporate a science lesson curriculum for the Clear Creek ISD 3rd and 7th graders. Since 2004, the Longhorn Project has provided science lesson to thousands of students each year. In the 2015-2016 school year, over 6,000 Clear Creek ISD 3rd and 7th graders visited the project site and participated in a “hands-on” genetics lesson utilizing the Texas Longhorns for data and visual evaluation. In addition, students learn about animal husbandry, fruit and vegetable cultivation, aquaculture, soil research and recycling technologies. They also discover how that knowledge relates to the future of human spaceflight. For the first time in the 20-year history of The Longhorn Project, the science lesson field trips will be open to all public, private, and home-based schools and youth and adult organizations.
The Longhorn Project, also known as the Center for Agriculture, Science, and Engineering (CASE), is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center on a 53-acre tract of land. This land features a 35-acre pasture for grazing, an 11-acre feedlot, and 7-acre "garden" area which consists of the garden plots, greenhouse, orchards, compost containers, aquaculture ponds, a paved patio with a waterfall and pond that is stocked with small fish and the Western Heritage Pavilion that was built and donated by the Houston Livestock Show and RodeoTM.
Today, there is a small trophy steer herd that have made Johnson Space Center their home for the duration of their lives, and a show team of longhorns on loan from members of the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America. A selected team of FFA or 4-H students, raise and exhibit the Longhorns at eight to ten state, and national longhorn shows per year, including the Houston Livestock and RodeoTM. Through this unique program, the show team students can have the opportunity to learn about ranch management, animal husbandry and the rich history of our Texas heritage to promote the preservation and legacy of the cattle native to our state.