Heading to Houston Space Center


Are you heading to Houston, Texas or do you live in Houston and are looking for something to do? If so, you should check out Space Center Houston. Its one of the many interesting attractions in this great Texas city. What is there to do at the Space?

There is quite a bit to do. For starters you can take a tour of Johnson Space Center and mission control. On this guided tram tour you will be taken to the famous historic mission control center, a space vehicle mockup facility hangar x and more. Next, check out the Astronaut Gallery. Here you will be treated to an exhibit of space suits. This is one of the worlds most extensive collections and includes suits worn by John Young and Judy Rusnik. The Astronaut Gallery is located just outside of the Northrop Grumman theater so when you are done there, head inside and see a film. See the life of an astronaut shown on a five story tall screen. The film shows you the life of an astronaut from the time they are accepted into the training program up until they go on their first mission.

That just scratches the surface of what there is to do at the Space Center Houston. If you have some extra time in Houston, head over to the Space Center Houston.

In early December, I made my first trip to NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, and the Space Center Houston visitor center. JSC is NASA’s manned spacecraft center, where astronaut training, ground, and research control are conducted. It is a huge complex, comprising 100 buildings and employing 3,200 workers, including more than 100 astronauts.

It has served as mission control for the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo– Soyuz, and Space Shuttle missions, and also handles ground control for the American portion of the International Space Station.

I was there as a guest of 20th Century Fox, at an event highlighting NASA’s advisory role in its film The Martian, now out on digital download and soon to be released on DVD. Although the film– as was the book it was based on– was impressive in its realism in many respects, I was a little disappointed (though not surprised) that the real JSC bore little architectural resemblance to the futuristically designed complex envisioned by director Ridley Scott and The Martian’s creators. (As the movie takes place in the 2030s, NASA still has 20 years to get it right.).

A lot of historic spacecraft are on display at Space Center Houston, JSC’s official visitor center, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum that is independently run and operated as a nonprofit. Space Center Houston offers tram tours of some JSC attractions.

The only sight covered here that you almost certainly won’t see on a public tour is the Mars Yard, which we were taken to because of its connection to The Martian. (Mark Watney’s rover in the movie bears a resemblance to the Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) we rode in, which is not surprising because Ridley Scott and the movie’s creators consulted extensively with NASA about the scientific aspects of the movie).

The Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston are well worth seeing if you are in the area, or making a pilgrimage to if you’re an avid space geek. There are a lot of cool things to see there, and these are our favorites.

Remember Apollo 13’s “Houston, we have a problem?” This is the “Houston” that Jim Lovell and his crew were talking to– and the home of the Mission Control that NASA astronauts communicate with today when they’re in space. Visitors to the center can learn about the history and science of space exploration at the Living in Space exhibit, which simulates what life is like aboard the space station– and how even “simple” tasks like showering and eating get complicated in zero-gravity. In the Kids Space Place, children can ride on a lunar rover and try out tasks in an Apollo command module. Want to know exactly how it feels to be launched into space? Then check out the Blast Off Theater, where you’ll experience the rocket boosters and billowing exhaust of liftoff. You’ll then dock at the International Space Station to get started on your mission. The adjacent Johnson Space Center tour includes a visit to (the real) Mission Control and laboratories that simulate weightlessness and other space-related concepts. You can also see a real Saturn V, the launch vehicle for the Apollo moon missions, in Rocket Park. Be sure to allow several hours for your visit.

First, let’s get some of the details out of the way.

If you want to see it all, plan to stay all day.
Not all attractions are kid-friendly. Some are slow and packed with intellectual information, which for many kids is just plain boring. Kids 8 and up will enjoy most parts of the Space Center, but under that age, it could get dicey. Know your kids and the attractions.
This is not the Kennedy Space Center, and it’s just not as good. If you have been to the Kennedy Space Center, you will likely be underwhelmed by the Space Center Houston. That’s not to say that SCH is bad, it’s just not as snazzy. Adjust your expectation accordingly.
Pre-planning is a must. I highly recommend that you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to opening to grab a daily schedule and plot out your day. Late seating is not available for most attractions, and without careful planning you will be late all day.
The must-sees are the Tram Tour and Starship Gallery if you are short on time. These are the truly unique exhibits at SCH. Everything else is gravy.
Parking is $6, but if you take my advice and arrive 30 minutes before opening, you will find the parking booth unmanned, so you can park for free.

If you have some extra time in Houston, head over to the Space Center Houston.

In early December, I made my first trip to NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, and the Space Center Houston visitor. A lot of historic spacecraft are on display at Space Center Houston, JSC’s official visitor center, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum that is independently run and operated as a nonprofit. Visitors to the center can learn about the history and science of space exploration at the Living in Space exhibit, which simulates what life is like aboard the space station– and how even “simple” tasks like showering and eating get complicated in zero-gravity. If you have been to the Kennedy Space Center, you will likely be underwhelmed by the Space Center Houston.

Go back to the Home Page