NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston
NASA - well if you're coming to Houston you'll know that this is one of the places you must visit while your here.
It took me 4 months to finally get here and I'm pleased I've now been around the NASA Space Center and taken the Historical Trolley Tour around the original command center which was used to command the first manned mission to the moon.
It's about $16 to visit the center, however if you pay about $19 you get a years membership - useful if you live here and you have friend who may want to visit when they visit you! I think there are also cheaper options for families and if you arrive later in the day.
One thing about the NASA Space Center - my friends at work have mixed feelings on the quality of the center. Some think it's a bit dated, others find the place a bit boring - however I think it's got a lot of interesting exhibits and there's definately hands on actitivies for children.
My only concern for the NASA Space Center is that it really does rely on event which happened 30-40 years ago - I think there is a lot which could be done to make it more up to date and interesting for young and old alike - keeping the history and bringing in more of what's happening now.
This was the main goal of my visit to Houston. This is the official visitor center of the NASA's Johnson Space Center, the NASA's center from where the different Apollo missions were controlled.
I have spent there an afternoon, but this was slightly too short, count at least a day if you want to see everything.
The different exhibits are mainly an illustrated story of the spatial conquest. Mostly turned to the past (Apollo,...), there is also some parts about the present (ISS) and the future programs (settlement on the Moon, March exploration,...).
This picture, for example, shows the project of an emergency shuttle for an orbital station.
The visit is quite interesting, children will love it, there are plenty of experiences and animations dedicated to them. I was however slightly deceived, I was expecting something more technical or scientific but I guess all visitors are not engineer...
This is not really in the center of Houston but some 50 miles south of it.
This is far from being a free visit !! Count 17.95$ per adult and 13.95$ per children and don't forget to add 4$ for the parking...
Now an easy way to get a 2$ discount per head is to print the voucher that is available from the website:
There is even a more subtle way to spare money. However, for some reasons, I haven't seen any mention of it anywhere but in front of the intrance desk, once the parking had already been paid!
For 19.95$ (or 74.95$ for a family), you can become a member.
What does that mean?
- that includes the intrance (17.95$ -2$ with voucher)
- free parking (4$)
So far, it could sound absolutely the same price but then you also have...
FREE ADMISSION FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR !!!
I bet it could be worth to call 281-244-2105 for some more information!!
Probably the most spectacular part of my visit to Houston, this is totally FREE!! If you are in the area and don't have too much time or don't want to pay 20$ for a visit of the Space Center, this is defintely a must see!!
You first have to pass through a small security check and you may then park your car close to the park.
You can then walk along this Saturn V rocket, this is the kind of rocket that has sent the Apollo missions to the Moon. Try to imagine the fury of the fire out of its huge reactors...
If you go to Houston, you have to visit the Space Center! After all, Houston is where NASA-Johnson Space Center is located. That's where the astronauts train and where NASA curates the lunar rocks brought back by the Apollo missions. Space Center Houston is the museum associated with it. Permanent exhibitions are about past and present space programs and the solar system. I particularly enjoyed the "Star ship gallery" and the Moon rock exhibition. there are lots of exhibitions and stuffs for kids.
Do not miss the little train ride! That's where you go as close as you can to the "real" NASA. They change the train path from time to time. Now (2011), you can choose between 2 tours, one to the old Mission Control room and to the rocket park (including a Saturn V, like the ones that sent astronauts to the Moon), and one to the real size shuttle where the astronauts are training and to the rocket park (be prepared to wait in line on week-ends for these tours).
It is ridiculously expensive: $19.95 per person (kids and seniors have reductions, $16 on line), $5 for parking.
Space Center is opened 10-5 weekdays. 10-6 weekends.
Note: there is a detailed tour of 4-5 hours of NASA behind the scene with a guide that you can purchase for $85 called "Level 9 tour". It should be reserved in advance.
Yipeee, I'm touching the moon ;-) An example amongst the different attractions of the center is this tiny moon part visitor can touch...
I haven't learned anything new but well, now I can say I've been in contact with the moon ;-)
Don't miss the tram tour, this is one of the most interesting activities.
I have been able to see the actual astronaut training facilities and the historical Command Center from where the Apollo missions were controlled.
This is amazing to realise they have been able to send people to the moon with such primitive technologies (your actual PC is way more powerfull than the "supercomputer" that was controlling everything at that time)
Apparently the different tours don't always have the same destinations, it could eventually be interesting to do several of them (but count one hour for each)
For 4.55$ more, you can get a pre-programmed MP3 player. When walking through the different exhibits, you will see at some place the number of the track you have to play. You would then hear an explanation about what you see and quite often also some comments from the real astronauts.
To make your own idea, you can listen to a sample of these tracks from the "What's new section" on the website (21/12/2003).
Of course, this is some more money but this is definitely worth it !!
You can't come to Houston without making a visit to NASA. It's pretty interesting because you can walk around in spaceships and see how the controls look inside. They also have a lot of interactive activities.
Open Daily Summer - June 10am-7pm, July 9am-7pm, August 10am-5pm, 10am-7pm Weekends
Winter - Mon-Fri - 10am-5pm Sat-Sun 10am-6pm
Though shuttles are no longer launched from Johnson the center plays an important part in todays space exploration. Astronauts as well as other international space explorers train at Johnson. Mission Control for all shuttle flights is run out of Johnson. The center has a great museum detailing the history and the future of human space flight.
OK...this was very interesting to me....believe it or not, there are actually 2 space centers! So, let me give you a few tips just to help you have a good time; and not get confused and frustrated in the process:
First off, like I said, there are 2 space centers. The first one is run by the government. The other is where all the exhibits are. I accidentally (and purposely) drove into the wrong one thinking they were both the same place. The guard at the gate told me to "proceed to building 110." So I "proceeded" to Building 110 (outside the gate I might add), where I was told I could not enter unless I had a "point of contact." Since I didn't have one, I couldn't talk to HR in person...oh well.
In any case, I drove further down the road and found the space center that had all the fun stuff. It is just past the NASA JSC. The best way to know you are in the right place, is the fact that the front entrance has 2 T-38 planes on display.
Parking is $5 US; and admission is $18.95 (discounted with AAA, Military, or if you work for Southwest Airlines).
For the adult or teen with more that a casual interest in the space program, the JSC Level 9 tour is a must-do. These tours are only available if booked in advance and although a little pricey at $85 for each adult (14 or older, no kids allowed), the price includes access to the shows within the JSC. The tour includes 12 passenger shuttle buses that are air conditioned and a nice way to get around during Houston's hot and humid summers. The tour guides are extremely knowledgable of the workings and history of NASA and the JSC. The tour includes a hot lunch in the cafeteria where the astronauts and NASA technicians eat. This is a wonderful tour that gives one a sense of special treatment only previously reserved for to visiting dignitaries. Thrill seekers would be bored but those who can appreciate how much the space program has benefited mankind and has a keen interest in engineering will not be disappointed. Although you will see many items of historical significance, this is not just another tour. The Level 9 tour brings you to intimacy with the Space Program, and you will let feel the intensity of the fraternal bonds between the NASA team in Mission Control and the astronauts in space. My brother Joe has been following the space program since he was a kid. 5 years ago I surprised him with a level 9 tour for his 50 birthday, when he came to visit. Joe still gets excited every time he recounts his experiences and the special treatment those at Mission Control gave him.
I'd read a little bit about how this is for kids and it is cheap exhibits. So we didn't allow much time. However I felt like there was so much to see and do and though we only got a small glimpse what we saw was interesting and worthwhile. We went right in and stood in line for the trolley ride. We waited at least 45 min. We took the one that would take us to the Historic Mission Control. Since we lived through that Apollo era and were watching on TV when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon, we had to see the place where the history really happened. I'm so glad they've left everything the way it was. Besides re-living those amazing memories it helped to see how far technology has come and how life has moved on. We didn't get off at the rocket garden since we had seen the one at Cape Canaveral. I would also have liked to take the other tour...can't remember now where it went. And then we went to the exhibit hall. There was a life size shuttle cockpit, a model of the space station, a demonstration of life on the shuttle, movies, games, and more that we didn't really explore, as well of course as a gift shop and food court.
I had purchased online, from their website, ahead of time a half price ticket. We bought it in May for an August visit. I know part of the reason I felt like this was a good place to visit was because we didn't pay full price. That helped make it a better value.
Mission control is worth a look however this is the most unorganised place ever. You have to wait for 2 separate coach tours to see everything and you can be stuck waiting for ages. the two tours could very easilybe combined into one especially when they both end in the rocket garden. if you have a choose between only visiting here or kennedy, kennedy wins hands up! The whole centre is sponsered byvariuos different companies
Visit NASA space center, I had a wonderful time there. A lot in store if you are a space enthusiasts. Got a ride on their space-age vehicles which kinda "float" on the ground. And also visit the control room where everything happens...