This article was published on November 10th, 2013
Space exploration has fascinated people for thousands of years. The 20th century was an exciting time for mankind as countries from around the world raced to be the first into outer space and to put a man on the moon. One of the leading programs was the United States, NASA program, which was the first to put a man on the moon.
The headquarters and mission control for the NASA program is based at Space Center Houston, about an hour drive south east of Houston, Texas. Established in 1961, the 1,700 acre base is home to the original mission control, mission control for the international space station, a museum of NASA space history, three distinct guided tram tours, and a real rocket.
The highlight of Space Center Houston is the guided tram tour of original mission control. From 1961 through 1995, the original mission control was the focal point for the Gemini and Apollo missions, including Apollo 13. In 1995, a new mission control centre was opened, which uses the latest computer technology. Part of the new mission control centre includes monitoring the International Space Station 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.
Guests on the original mission control tour are taken through the massive NASA compound to the original 1960’s buildings. Inside are artifacts, plaques and mementos from the various missions. The mission control centre guests view is a re-creation of the original, but uses all the original parts and pieces. It’s laid out exactly as it would have been during the Apollo missions.
The tour ushers guests into the viewing room, the same room that family, dignitaries and VIPs would go to watch a mission in progress. It’s noteworthy to try to sit in the second seat from the left in the front row; this is where Queen Elizabeth sat when she came to see a flight mission on her visit.
After the tour of the mission control room, guests are taken to the space shuttle park. Here guests can see and touch real rocket engines and boosters, rocket pieces, and the real Saturn V rocket that was built but never launched into space.
At the end of the tour guests are brought back to the main building which includes a gift shop and the space museum. Inside the museum are replica models of space rovers and rockets, real space shuttle seats, actual instruments, parts and artifacts from real space missions, and full-scale replicas of the space shuttle. The highlight is the opportunity for guests to touch a real moon rock!
Space Center Houston is an adventure for people of all ages, from young children to adults. While it is a fun attraction to see and visit, it’s also very educational and an experience not to miss when visiting the Houston area.
Space Center Houston is open daily from 10am – 5pm. The best time to visit is early in the morning and mid-week. To get the best deal on admission, pre-purchase a Houston CityPASS, and save up to 49% on admission rates to this and other Houston area attractions.
For more information on Space Center Houston and other things to do in the Houston area, including the Museum of Natural Science, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Downtown Aquarium, and places to stay like the Royal Sonesta and the Four Seasons Houston, check out the Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau website.