Happy Asteroid Day! In celebration I have a space themed blog for you today. While we were in Houston, Texas last year we got to visit the Space Center which is described as the ‘hub’ for manned spaceflight.
We got to see the actual command center used for the Apollo moon landing missions as well as the Saturn V rocket and lots of other space related artifacts. It was such a fun and educational day, you could say we had a BLAST..
We had a car with us in Houston as we were on our big road trip, so we drove out to the center first thing in the morning and there was plenty of parking for $5. Apparently the parking can fill up quite quickly so if you are planning to drive get there early. Other options are to take a taxi/Uber or there is a metro bus on week days.
You can line up at the entrance for tickets or there are self-serve kiosks to the side. Nobody was using the kiosks so we just walked straight up and got our tickets. I think you need to use a booth if you have discounts or family passes etc so double check your entry requirements. Tickets are currently $29.95 for adults which is pretty reasonable for how awesome the center is. You can also pre-order tickets online.
When you walk in there is the main exhibition hall and then there are two tram tours that take you around the rest of the lot which is included in your entry fee. The first tram tour is the Mission Control Tour which we did and the second is the Astronaut Training Facility Tour which we unfortunately didn’t have time for. You have to line up and wait for each tour and they take approximately 90 minutes each so I recommend getting one or both of these tours done first so that you have the rest of the day to explore the main hall.
The tram tour was really cool and it takes you into the Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control which houses the Apollo Mission Control Center. You get to sit on the seats that presidents and celebrities sat in to watch mission control.
While we were there in August 2018 they were doing renovations to the command decks in preparation for the 50th anniversary in July 2019 (next month now!), so some things were missing but it was still amazing to see the exact place where it all happened.
The tour then takes you around the grounds and past some of the trees that are dedicated to astronauts who have lost their lives during missions which I think is a nice tribute. You then carry on to Rocket Park so you can walk around next to the huge Saturn V rocket ship and read all about the Apollo missions. You have as much time as you like in the shed, and you just hop onto the next tram when you are ready.
As I mentioned before we didn’t have time for the second tram tour. I’d love to hear from anyone that has been to the training facility and what you get to see there.
We then went out to Independence Plaza which is where you get to walk inside a shuttle carrier aircraft and a replica space shuttle. It is really amazing that they have set up the exhibit so you can actually walk around inside a real aircraft and see things for yourself.
The whole plaza is outdoors and it was starting to get pretty hot for us, so take into consideration the weather when you are visiting and if it is a warm day try to also do the plaza early if you can.
There are heaps of displays within the exhibition hall, where you can learn about things like missions to Mars, how space suits work and touch part of the moon! I felt like this main hall was more aimed at kids but it was still interesting. We watched a live demonstration about living on the space station and another demonstration about how rockets work and they were both really funny and interactive.
There are also mission briefings and films that you can watch, although again we didn’t have enough time for these. You are given the schedule for the day when you first arrive so check that and see if there are any presentations on that jump out to you. I can imagine if you lived nearby and had an annual pass you would be able to come back multiple times a year for new presentations.
I love a good gift shop and the space center has by far one of the best ones I have been to. I brought a NASA jumper, a SCIENCE! shirt, and freeze-dried ice creams and peaches as gifts to bring home. Definitely save your pennies for this one.
For more information about the 50th anniversary celebrations visit the official website.