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NASA’s Space Center Houston has been one of Houston’s premier stops for visitors since it opened in 1992. Located about half an hour outside the city, the Smithsonian-affiliated museum is best enjoyed when you are aptly prepared. Here is a list of all the best tips to know before you head to the Space Center Houston, whether it's your first time or your 500th.
Often! Even if you’ve been to Space Center Houston in the past, the main floor exhibit changes a few times a year, plus new additions and highlights are added. As of Oct. 1, for example, the center started a new exhibit called “Astronaut,” in which visitors have the chance to test the limits of what it would be like living in microgravity for extended amounts of time. Take on a series of challenges to see if you could handle the pressure of being an astronaut. This special exhibit will only be around for a few months before another thrilling display replaces it, so make sure to return often.
As for the time of day, we recommend showing up as the center is opening. Every group spends a different amount of time there, but there is a lot to see and do so it is better to have plenty of time.
Friday afternoons are special at Space Center Houston, because of the special event “Lunch with an Astronaut.” Be sure to make your reservation at least two weeks in advance, and bring a camera to capture this special memory. Other special events and educational programs occur throughout the year, including Home School Days and Mars-themed Day Camps, and holiday-themed events, so be sure to check back frequently and plan a visit on the perfect day for you.
There is so much to experience at Space Center Houston, no matter what age you are. Even if you’re not a big fan of tours normally, we recommend doing the tram tours. The red tour takes you to the Astronaut Training Facility, while the blue tour takes you to the Historical Mission Control, where some of the most momentous events in our nation’s history were orchestrated. Both tours then go to Rocket Park where the most powerful rocket ever built, the Saturn V is located. Rocket Park is self-guided, so you could skip that part on one tour if you catch it on the other.
Independence Plaza, one of the newest additions to Space Center Houston, is an exhibit complex with a shuttle replica, mounted on top of the original shuttle carrier aircraft, the NASA 905. The eight-story, 240-ton complex is the world’s first and only shuttle/carrier replica open to the public. Visitors can walk through the flight deck, cockpit, astronaut living quarters, and payload bay all while taking in authentic artifacts and shuttle history. Independence Plaza also pays a special tribute to the crew members of the Challenger and Columbia missions.
Starship Gallery an extensive gallery inside of the center. It covers much of the basics of space exploration history including a full-size Skylab Training module, a moon rock you can touch, and other information and artifacts that the whole family will enjoy.
If you’re looking for a next-level experience at Space Center Houston, indulge in the Level 9 Tour. This lasts 4-5 hours, and you will get in-depth information and views of the multiple buildings at Johnson Space Center including the astronaut training facility and mission control. Only 12 Level 9 admissions are available per day, and you must be 14 years or older.
Large quantities of food cannot be brought inside Space Center Houston (exceptions include medical and diabetic circumstances), but there are picnic tables outside the facility for anyone who wishes to use them. You can bring a few small snacks inside, but no big bags or coolers full of food. There is also a food court inside with plenty of seating and dining options. Don’t let hunger keep your group from exploring during your trip.
Space Center Houston is dedicated to educating and inspiring people of all ages, so purchasing family passes and memberships is fairly inexpensive. If you would rather wait until you see the facility before investing the extra few dollars in the year membership, Space Center Houston gives you the option of buying a regular ticket, and then upgrading on your way out. Members receive invitations to exclusive events and a discount at the SpaceTraders gift shop. Remember, even if you spend all day at the center, there will be new and different things to see in a few months time.
You can also get $5 off if you have a military ID or AAA membership ID card. Connect with Space Center Houston for discounts and the latest news. Parking is $5 (cash) per vehicle.
To download high-res images, visit photo gallery.