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Rocket science: MarineMax fills a need for NASA

The boat company lends a hand to the space agency's next big project.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. November 16, 2018
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How many boat maintenance technicians does it take to shrink-wrap a NASA spacecraft?

You could be forgiven for thinking that sounds like the setup for a punchline about government inefficiency. But it’s no joke. (The answer, if you’re wondering, is five.)

MarineMax — the nationwide boat retailer that’s headquartered in Clearwater and generated $1.05 billion in revenue in 2017, up from $942 million in 2016 — recently lent the skills of members of its Houston-based service team to NASA for a project that will help astronauts someday explore reaches of space beyond the moon, including Mars.

The space agency needed to prepare an Orion crew module for transport from Houston to Sandusky, Ohio, where it will be part of a flight test. To do that, the nearly 35,000-pound vehicle, which accounts for a large portion of the multibillion-dollar Orion project budget, had to be shrink wrapped.

MarineMax, whose Houston location is adjacent to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, has plenty of experience wrapping up large recreational boats and yachts for cross-country trips. According to a statement on the company’s website, it’s a service the company’s team performs on a regular basis for the purpose of safely transporting and storing boats.

“It was an incredible experience being able to work on such a unique project,” writes Billy Foulkes, a service adviser at MarineMax Houston, in a blog post. “It’s not every day that we get to support NASA!”

Foulkes was joined in the project by fellow MarineMax Houston service team members Jose Vasquez, Sheila Pogue, Michael Melancon and Benjamin Bodin.

Although she was not cleared to divulge details of the work, Pogue, a parts consultant, tells Coffee Talk the experience was especially thrilling for her, personally, because she is the granddaughter of William Pogue, who died in 2014 after a long and successful career as a pilot and astronaut. The elder Pogue was part of NASA’s Apollo program in the 1960s and, later, the Skylab Orbital Workshop program.



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