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Space Center Houston attractions - Independence shuttle replica

Space Center Houston: Gateway to NASA’s Johnson Space Center

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Do you wonder how close we are to a manned-mission to Mars? Curious about what being in space for months or years at a time does to the human body? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is interested in these answers, too, and shares information about it every day with visitors to Space Center Houston and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Know Before You Go: Space Center Houston Tickets & Dining

Admission tickets are available online, saving you time in the ticket line. Discount codes are usually easily found with a Google search, and you can set up times for your Independence shuttle and tram tours during purchase.

If you arrive at Space Center Houston and haven’t bought tickets yet, check the map they give you when you pay for parking for an admission coupon. You can still set up tour times by visiting the Membership Desk upon entry or online.

On our first visit to Space Center Houston, we visited the food court for lunch and were underwhelmed with the choices and overwhelmed with the cost! So, for our second visit we brought our own food and left it in a cooler in the car until lunchtime when we utilized the picnic tables to enjoy a little time outside.

Space Center Houston Attractions

Shuttle Independence

One of the newest Space Center Houston attractions is the shuttle replica Independence mounted on a NASA 905 shuttle carrier. This is the only place in the world to walk-through a mounted shuttle and carrier, and there are exhibits and information throughout. The staff manning these were outstanding, actively engaging the visitors to see if there were any questions they could answer about what we were experiencing.

Tram Tours

There are two tram tours that leave the visitor center and take you onto the NASA Johnson Space Center. One is a tour of mission control and the other takes you to an astronaut training facility. Both tours finish with a stop at Rocket Park where an actual Saturn V rocket is on display along with other historic spacecraft. You can take both tours if time allows.

Tip: If your schedule doesn’t allow you to visit Space Center Houston, you can still tour Rocket Park at no cost.

Houston Space Center attractions - Saturn V

One of the most popular Space Center Houston attractions is the Rocket Park where this massive Saturn V rocket is on display.

Demonstrations & Movies

There are a number of live demonstrations, movies, and presentations at Space Center Houston that are very informative and fun. Topics include the history of the space program, how astronauts live on the International Space Station (one child is chosen as a volunteer at this demonstration!), science lessons from space, and where NASA is in their quest to learn more about Mars. It’s definitely worth catching as many of these as you can!

Kids Space Place

We made frequent stops to the Kids Space Place play area between attractions. My kids were thrilled to operate a “Mars Rover” by remote video and just run and play in general.

Houston Space Center attractions - Kids Space Place

The kids play area is a great place to take short breaks between demonstrations, movies or tours.

Special Activities & Tours

There are a few upgraded experiences that we haven’t tried yet, but I’m considering them for future visits. Lunch with an Astronaut gives you a chance to talk to an astronaut which I’m sure my boys would enjoy. My kids aren’t old enough for the Level 9 Tour yet because the minimum age is 14; however, we definitely have our eye on this behind-the-scenes tour for a few years from now!

Audio Tours

We also haven’t done the audio tour, but I talked with a lady who had kids that looked close in age to mine, and she said the tour was really good. The narration is done by past and present astronauts, and the kids version is interactive with quizzes, games, and videos. I’m looking forward to trying this out on our next visit.

Although we’ve had two visits in two years, I can certainly see my family heading back to Space Center Houston again. As new discoveries are made and missions developed by the men and women of NASA, this ever-evolving museum will be a place of wonder year after year.

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Independence shuttle replica and Saturn V rocket photos courtesy of Space Center Houston.

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Robyn fell in love with travel before kids and has found it even more wonderful since her kids have joined the family. She is married to an amazing…

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