Johnson Space Center – Houston

Space Shuttle Independence on 747

On July 20 of this year we will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of man on the moon. If you were alive at that time, I don’t think you will ever forget it or Neil Armstrong’s words: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Although most space launches occur in Florida, the main control center for flights is in Houston at the Johnson Space Center. Touring this facility can only be called inspiring. There are so many amazing things to see. As you drive up to the main building, the first thing you see is one of the space shuttles atop a 747 that is used to transport the shuttles back to Florida. Once inside the main building, you can actually go into both of these vehicles and see the massive size of the interior for yourself. Then you can walk around the main building where you see all types of exhibits and mockups of different space vehicles, and movies. There are also hands on experiments for both adults and children, as well as an area for kids to actually attempt to do some of the things that astronauts have to learn to do. One of these exhibits is a moving vehicle kids sit in and try to dock a incoming space vehicle to a stationary vehicle in “space.” There are also rides that can be taken (extra cost). One of these involves using goggles that make things appear multidimensional. In addition, there is a lunar rock area where you can actually touch a rock from the surface of the moon, and see many others.

Another very interesting adventure involves taking tram tours. Most of the time there are two tram rides. The blue line or the red line. Both took us to Rocket Park. This is by far our favorite part of the tours. There are a few rockets outside the building, but when you enter the building, you are totally blown away by the massiveness of the Saturn V rocket inside. It is laying on its side and is 363 ft long. This rocket has three stages and a command module. Finally on the very top is the lunar module.

From here the tram tour drives you around the actual working areas of Nasa and shows you the buildings from the outside. Then you are allowed to go into the Christopher Kraft Building and see the actual mission control room for the Orion missions. We were told that this will be closed very soon, and we were one of the last groups to be able to see it. In this building there is also a room that you can tour with a special ticket of the old mission control room of the early space programs. On a trip quite a while ago, we were able to see this room. The thought that we were able to put a man into space using computers that didn’t even have the capability of a present day cell phone is truly amazing!

The second tram tour takes you to the astronaut training center as well as riding around the outside of buildings. It has lots of different space vehicles and robots that are used for training.

I would say that the space center has something for just about all ages. Older adults will enjoy the historical parts and seeing the actual machinery involved. Younger children will enjoy all of the hands-on experiences and rockets.

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