Love of NASA and astronauts launches extensive collections
Visiting Robert Pearlman’s Clear Lake-area house is about as close to walking through a space museum as it gets.
Pearlman, 43, started collecting space-, NASA- and astronaut-related memorabilia when he was a child, and he hasn’t stopped since, he said.
“When I was 6, I decided I was going to be an astronaut like every kid does at some point,” Pearlman said. “But I just didn’t let go of it.”
As a child diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and often in the hospital, Pearlman read about space to escape, he said.
Pearlman’s 400-piece collection focuses on representations of space in pop culture, he said.
He collects toys and magazine covers, stamps and coins, all with pictures of people who went to space, he said. He also has moon rocks, sleeping bags, space gloves, flight-deck switches and other items used during actual space flights, he said.
“I sort of equate collections to goldfish,” Pearlman said.
A goldfish in a small bowl will stay small, but a goldfish given space will grow larger, he said.
“It can get away from you if you’re not careful,” Pearlman said.
Pearlman’s collecting enthusiasm led him to launch CollectSpace, a website and online community for space enthusiasts and people who collect space memorabilia.
The site has 250,000 members and helps Pearlman connect with others who share his interests, he said.
“It’s not just a transactional hobby,” Pearlman said. “It’s one where you get to know people who have the same passion as you.”
League City resident Janet Morris said her career launched her collecting habit.
Morris started working with NASA at Johnson Space Center through a third party in 1976 as a clerk and transitioned into project scheduling, a role she held throughout the shuttle program, she said.
Over the years, her collection of space-related memorabilia has grown, in part, as a byproduct of working with NASA, she said.
“I’ve got bookmarks that flew,” Morris said. “I’ve got bottles of wine signed by crews. I’ve got coins. It’s unbelievable how much I have.”
Morris’ collection includes mission patches, signed posters and signed books. Many of the items she keeps were employee awards or things she got while working with NASA, she said.
She has so many items she gives them away to family and friends, but she’ll never give away her Silver Snoopy award, she said.
This pin, featuring the famous Peanuts comic character, is an honor that astronauts give to NASA employees and contractors.
Morris received her award from astronaut Jim Wetherbee, who commanded five spaceflight missions, she said.
“I remember my knees locking,” Morris said. “It’s surreal.”
Morris’ collection is a reminder of her love of her job working in the space program, and she loves seeing reminders of work at home, she said.
“It’s just an atmosphere in success and accomplishment,” Morris said. “They take pride in what they do. Even when the shuttle program came to an end, we were treated with the utmost respect.”
The shuttle program ended in 2011 and for a while, Morris didn’t know what to do with herself, she said. Now, she’s working with NASA again, handling scheduling for the space station program, she said.
“The people are great and I wouldn’t give it up for the world,” Morris said. “You have such camaraderie among everyone.”
Pearlman’s obsession with space also has given him the opportunity to meet astronauts and others involved in the space program, he said. He has a copy of the book “Who’s Who in Space” signed by about 200 astronauts, he said.
Although the book is old and falling apart — he’s had it since he was a child — he loves the history within its pages, he said.
“I had that when I met my very first astronaut,” Pearlman said. “That book would be something I’d grab if the place was on fire.”