“Houston, we have a problem” and NASA are basically synonymous. My husband was both excited an envious after my brother checked into The Johnson Space Center during a trip to Houston with friends. My husband wanted to work for NASA when he was a child. There is still a part of him that would love to send his CV to Elon Musk to see if he couldn’t get involved with Space X. When we booked our flights to Houston going to the Johnson Space Center became a top priority.
Getting Tickets: NASA here we come!
Important to know, is that the whole, functional space exploring complex is called The Johnson Space Center. The centre is one of the campuses forming part of NASA. The touristy building we visitors enter is called Space Center Houston. When you buy your ticket you get to do a tour into the rest of the grounds if you would like. We bought our tickets for Space Center Houston along with other attractions with our Houston CityPASS. This means that we could skip the ques when we got there. The other cool thing about the CityPASS is that you get a 10% discount from the gift shop. You can buy tickets at the door, but you are going to cue. You can also get coupons for a little discount at different stores. Click Here to see where.
Planning Your Day
My most important tip is to get there early. There is a hell of a lot to see and do. From two different tours, to museums, to walking around an old space ship. You are going be there for a while. Even if you aren’t a space nerd. The opening times vary according to the season so double check on their website while planning your excursion. The Space Center has a few of their own hints, and a break down of their shows and attractions. Click Here to see more. Keep in mind that it is quite a drive to actually get to there. NASA isn’t exactly on the doorstep of suburbia. I also feel like its important to go in with a plan. Get a schedule for the day, and prioritize what you want to do and see.
My Personal Favourites
The Tram Tours
There are two tram tours that take you into the Johnson Space Center, marked blue and red. One tour takes you to the historic mission control room. Many space operations and even the first moon landing was coordinated from this room. For an added price you can actually take a guided tour inside this room. The other tour takes you to Building 9. From a cat walk you can actually see engineers and astronauts working and training for projects. Building 9 contains a life size mock-up of The International Space Station. Here astronauts train and engineers design and build components for space. While we were there we saw a prototype for a new robot to be used in space. There were also vehicles being developed for exploration on planets other than our own.
Both tours stop at a silo containing the Saturn V Rocket. According to the Space Center Houston website, this rocket can theoretically be used again for space exploration. Its something you really have to see to believe. Then there are many different videos, live demonstrations, activities, exhibits and displays. Then there is also lunch with different astronauts and science displays. You will definitely find something interesting there. Personally, the two tram trips were a priority for us. Actually being at the historic mission control and seeing space theory becoming practice blew me away. And standing in front of a rocket that had been to space was extraordinary.
Climbing into a space shuttle
Next on my personal list is Independence plaza. Here you can actually climb into, and walk through a replica of the shuttle Independence, mounted atop a Boeing. When inside you can read up on the modifications made to the plane. Exposed panelling shows visitors how the aeroplane was stripped to accommodate the extra of the shuttle Independence. And how interiors were stripped down to their bare bones. You can also see why they decided to mount a space shuttle atop a Boeing.
Both life-sized replicas are basically all access for you to climb around in. There are also examples of the equipment and gear used by astronauts, demonstrated by the mannequins. Any questions about living in space are basically answered by this attraction. How astronauts go to the bathroom, eat, sleep and exercise are all covered in this super cool exhibit. This attraction can be-stair heavy, but not to fret. This is America and you can access most parts via an elevator.
You can purchase audio guides when you enter Space Station Houston. My brother, having done the trip before insisted on them. These audio guides give you extra information on a great many of the attractions, including the Saturn V Rocket. Purchasing these mean that you can walk around while getting all the pertinent information. In my opinion if you can’t spare the cash, the experience can be just as cool without them.
Maintaining Nutritional Requirements at NASA
As with many tourist destinations, you can’t take large volumes of food or liquid into Space Center Houston. There are a few different restaurant franchises inside as well as a Starbucks. What you can also do, is pack a picnic lunch. Leave it in your car and come out for lunch. There are picnic facilities which you can use to have lunch and then go back into the center. The grounds around the center is beautiful, and definitely work spending some time in.
What To Be Prepared For
Being on your feet. As with almost all types of sight seeing expect to be on your feet. If you are lucky enough not to queue the center itself is big and some of the attractions require walking and climbing stairs. If you are unable to climb stairs the center management is more than willing to accommodate you with lifts but it can take longer. Now that even though it is Texas, some of the areas are air conditioned, or just plain windy. The trams tours and independence plaza take you outside, so remember the sunscreen. But sunscreen should be a general rule for Houston in general.
Was It Worth It?
Entrance doesn’t exactly come cheap. Especially if you are earning in a different currency to the almighty US dollar. I do feel, however, that what we experienced was well worth the price tag. Even if you are not really interested in space or NASA. There are really cool exhibits and displays to sink your teeth into. If you are a five year old or a 65 year old there is something about the great unknown above our heads. Something that captures all our imaginations. If you really enjoyed this post, of if you want to know more about Houston CLICK HERE for a post all about the awesome city that is Houston.
Do you have any experiences about Space Center Houston that you would like to share? Leave a comment below!