NASA Longhorn Project:
10 Years Strong and Charging Ahead
By Cole Dowden
Printed in the November 2006 Texas Longhorn Trails
NASA Longhorn Project - the name conjures up images of Longhorns in spacesuits. Perhaps even Longhorns grazing on the moon.
Can you imagine Neil Armstrong as he stepped out of the moonlander. "This is one small step for man. One giant leap for Longhorn-kind." Well, this past month I got the assignment to cover the 10th anniversary of the NASA Longhorn project and learned what this was really about.
At the recent annual meeting of the Texas Longhorn Breeders Gulf Coast Association, Project Manager Cindy Schnuriger was pleased to announce the project had reached it 10th year. Schnuriger presented beautiful photographic prints to each of the project partners, who include Clear Creek Independent School District, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America.
Schnuriger also thanked two of the founders of the project, Don Limb, Washington, TX and Dorie Damuth, Magnolia, TX.
Don Limb then gave a brief history of the NASA Longhorn Project where he told the story of hauling in the first set of Longhorns to the Johnson Space Center.
On Wednesday, February 5, 1997, Don Limb loaded two Longhorns into a cattle trailer and began the trek from his ranch in Washington, TX. He met two police constables on the Northwest side of Houston around 8 am. From there the constables escorted Limb and the Longhorns in his trailer through rush hour traffic with lights and sirens blaring. Limb met up with the Houston Livestock Show Trail Drive at NASA Road One for the final leg to Johnson Space Center.
As the convoy turned onto Saturn Road - the road the project now calls home - Limb said he saw a sea of 2,500 to 3,000 people cheering for the Longhorns.
"We were met with a ground shaking applause," Limb said.
Even now, 10 years later, Limb took a moment to pause. "I just can't tell you how close it came to slipping through our fingers."
The NASA Project wasn't just thrown together, Limb, who was a manager at the Mission Control Center and Emergency Operation Center for Lockheed-Martin, spearheaded the effort to bring Texas Longhorns to NASA. At the time George Abbey was the director of NASA. Limb had regular meeting with Abbey and learned that Abbey wanted to see Longhorns at the space center. Originally the land where the space center is located was the West Ranch, owned by JM West. The sprawling acres of land were once home to Longhorns and Abbey felt that bringing them back for study and research purposes were a great idea. Limb jumped at the chance to bring Texas Longhorns back to the West Ranch and immediately contacted TLBAA President Don L. King and TLBAA Executive Officer Carol Dilley for their support in the effort.
The blanket authorization from the leadership at the TLBAA paved the way for the NASA Longhorn Project to begin. The generosity of the membership took the reins from there.
Originally six steers were donated for the project. Limb took the donated steers onto his ranch and prepped them for the project.
"We put the steers through an intense vaccination and health program," Limb said. During that time the donations rolled in from Lockheed-Martin and the project sponsors. And ten years later the NASA Longhorn Project has been a source of immense knowledge for the youth participants and a powerful program for all sponsors involved.
The focus on the youth is the primary motivation behind this project. Every Longhorn has been generously donated, allowing the youth to gain invaluable experience in showing, raising, and caring for the finest cattle in the world.
Each year the project has given the youth of the Longhorn world the opportunity to develop showmanship skills. Many of the past participants in the project have moved on to owning their own Longhorns and earning scholarship money for college.
The breeders who have donated Longhorns to the project have included a "who's-who" of the Longhorn industry. Their generosity has been immeasurable to the project and keeps Schnuriger busy as she is tasked with selecting new additions to the project. Only the finest donations make it into the project and the quality of the animal has improved with each year. The donors also pay all costs of feeding and caring for the animals, which include regular veterinary check-ups.
The facility for the project is nestled in the heart of the Johnson Space Center and is available for visitors to see the Texas Longhorns up close. The Limestone pavilion offers visitors a chance to see steers grazing and snap a few scrapbook photos to prove just how big the Longhorns really are.
As for the future of the project, it looks very strong. Donations for the project are always needed and the TLBAA members are happy to help. There's a saying in the Longhorn industry about "riding for the brand'; the NASA Longhorn has taken that to the next level - they're flying for the brand.