Space Centre Houston is a science and space study facility, as well as the visitor center for NASA Johnson Space Facility. The Johnson Space Center is the home of Mission Control and astronaut training. The Johnson Space Centre, first opened in 1961, is NASA’s manned spacecraft facility, the astronaut corps’ headquarters, and the site of International Space Station Mission activities.
It receives 1.25 million visitors per year and welcomes 250,000 teachers and learners to its educational activities.
The center houses approximately 400 space artifacts, permanent and traveling exhibitions, attractions, live shows, and theaters dedicated to preserving the legacy of America’s human spaceflight program. The experience is intended to captivate both adults and children.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to Space Center Houston, from what to see and do to saving money on your ticket.
Phone: +1 281-244-2100
Location: 1601 NASA Pkwy, Houston, Texas, 77058.
Ticket: Child (ages 3 & younger) Free, Kid (ages 4-11) $24.95, Adult (ages 12 & older) $29.95, Senior (ages 65 & older) $27.95. Purchase your advance-timed tickets here.
Hours: Weekdays: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Weekends: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Recommended Time: 4-6 hours
Is There A Difference Between Space Center Houston And Johnson Space Center?
When discussing Space Center Houston and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, it is easy to become confused. Many people confuse the two terms.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center houses the Mission Control and astronaut training facilities while Space Center Houston is NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s official visitor center and museum.
Both are on the same grounds, and NASA Johnson Space Center is accessible via tram from Space Center Houston.
18 Reasons To Visit NASA Space Center in Houston, Tx
1. NASA Tram Tour
Upon reaching the Space Centre, pick one of NASA’s Tram Tours tickets, it is free and is included in the admission ticket. There are limited seats in each tram making them fill so quickly. It is advisable to pick up your ticket fast and if possible do it early in the morning.
One of NASA’s most popular activities at Johnson Space Center is the tram tour. It gives you a chance to go behind the scenes of space exploration. Each tram tour will take you behind the scenes at one of the most recognizable spots at the Johnson Space Center.
In a single day, you can visit one, two, or all three tram stops. You must get tram tickets for each tour. Keep in mind that each tour will last between 1 hr. 30 minutes to 2 hours. This might easily consume your entire day.
2. Independence Plaza
Visit the Independence Plaza and observe the features of both the Space Shuttle Independence replica and the historic and real NASA 905 shuttle carrier airplane. Make sure to take the elevator or steps up to enter the plane and the shuttle – you’ll enjoy the views and exhibitions in both! Take a shot in front of both planes in the parking area.
Independence Plaza features an educational past, present, and future of NASA missions, featuring astronaut gear, space suits, and a Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) trainer. The real LRV that was used on the moon was left there.
3. Mission Mars
In the interactive exhibit Mission Mars, learn what it takes to journey to Mars, what hardware will bring us there, and how humanity may live on the red planet in the coming decades. Launch a bottle rocket, simulate an Orion spacecraft launch, and touch a Mars meteorite. You’ll also discover how scientists are handling the major difficulties associated with visiting and staying on the planet, such as constructing radiation-protective suits. Another issue will be to allow humans to cultivate food on Mars.
At Mission Mars, you may step inside the one-of-a-kind Orion capsule simulator and feel what the first astronauts to Mars will feel like.
4. Astronaut Gallery
The Astronaut Gallery is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that houses the world’s best collection of spacesuits. Two of the many spacesuits on display are astronaut John Young’s ejection suit and Judy Resnik’s T-38 flight suit.
You’ll get to observe the progression of astronaut life, from spacesuits to food, to the training and simulations required to equip NASA astronauts with the abilities needed to explore the moon and live on the International Space Station.
The Astronaut Gallery also features pictures and crew portraits of every US astronaut who has flown in space.
5. Starship Gallery
The Star Ship Gallery houses national treasures and fascinating items related to space exploration. This ‘out of this world’ display houses numerous flown spacecraft, including the Apollo 17 command module, Mercury 9, Faith 7, Gemini V tethered spacewalks, and a full-size Skylab 1-G training module.
The Space Center Houston Independence Plaza’s Star Ship Gallery display is one of the few sites where you can see and touch rare artifacts like a moon rock and so much more.
6. International Space Station Gallery (ISS Gallery)
The International Space Station Gallery is an exhibit dedicated to the greatest largest structure ever built in space.
It offers a dynamic peek inside the space station, with everything from interactive live shows to Robonauts and actual flown space station artifacts. The International Space Station (ISS) provides a fascinating look at the space station’s past, as well as facts on its history and what it’s like to live in Earth’s orbit.
7. Space Suit Collection
Independence Plaza houses the world’s greatest collection of space suits. On display are astronauts’ real-life spacesuits, including John Youngs’ STS-1 suit, which he wore on the first trip of the space shuttle program on April 12, 1981, and Sally Ride’s shuttle overalls. Sally Ride was the first female astronaut from the United States.
The Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or EMU, is the formal term for the spacesuit used on the space shuttle and the International Space Station. It can be pressurized and has high-temperature protection, drinking water, food, waste collecting systems, and electrical and communications systems. They may be adjusted and used for various body types.
There are various types of spacesuits in this collection. They have their casual wear clothes called inflight coveralls for their jobs within the spacecraft. There are also flight suits, the Skylab cooling garment, and Extravehicular Activity suits on show.
8. Rocket Park
Rocket Park, which is one of the Johnson Space Center’s top attractions and is open for guided tours, is the final resting place for several retired rockets and boosters. Outside the main hangar are two rockets: Mercury Redstone and Smokey Joes. The Saturn V rocket, which is located inside the hanger, is the real show-stopper. The Johnson Space Center’s Saturn V is the tallest, heaviest, and strongest rocket ever flown, is one of only three on display in the world, and is the only one to still have its original flight-certified hardware.
Between 1967 and 1973, Saturn V took 27 people into space and made six the landing on the moon. When completely fueled and set up for the flight, this three-stage engine, which stood 363 feet tall and weighed 6.2 million pounds, changed the course of human history.
9. Space Centre Theatre
If you’re short on time and can’t make it to every exhibit on foot, think about watching the 45-minute Journey to Space movie. The film pays homage to the 135 shuttle flights flown by 355 astronauts for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. The International Space Station, the final major undertaking of the Shuttle program, is covered in detail along with interviews with a number of the crew members.
10. Blast-Off Theater
You can watch a variety of presentations at the Blast-Off Theater all day long to get real-time mission updates on the Curiosity on Mars and International Space Station missions. They are only 30 minutes long and are jam-packed with up-to-date details on NASA’s ongoing projects. When you arrive, look over the daily program to choose which talks spark your interest. Additionally, on Fridays, you may attend the Meet the Astronaut talk here!
11. Touch The Moon
For an extraordinary experience that few can boast about, head over to the Lunar Samples Vault.
Six different Apollo missions returned moon rocks to Earth. They are kept and examined at Johnson Space Center’s Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility, but you can see them up close and personal at Space Center Houston.
They are the world’s largest public display of Moon rocks.
This is the world’s largest public display of Moon pebbles.
There are just eight moon rocks in the world that the general public can touch. This rock is 3.8 billion years old.
12. See John F. Kennedy’s Podium
When you head to Destiny Theater you will see the podium where President John F. Kennedy spoke passionately about going to the moon.
The podium was donated by Rice University in Houston, where Kennedy delivered his speech on September 12, 1962.
NASA made swift and significant progress toward attaining the Moon-landing goal in the 16 months following President Kennedy’s speech to Congress.
13. Spacex Falcon 9 Booster Exhibit
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is the first in history to launch two NASA missions. Both times, the SpaceX Falcon 9 was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The central body measures 156.5 feet tall and 10.1 feet in diameter. It contains nine Merlin 1D engines that let it launch vehicles into space, while the center body safely lands and may be reused. After two launches between June and December of 2017, this rocket was retired.
It was delivered to Houston, Texas, was assembled and displayed by some of the same engineers that repaired the rocket between launches.
The burn and scorch scars from its launches can still be seen if you look keenly.
14. Gift Shops
You definitely don’t want to leave the Space Center without purchasing some form of vacation souvenir.
The Space Center has one large gift shop as well as a smaller gift shop at the tram departure area. We discovered that these carry slightly different products, so make sure to check both of them. NASA has high-quality items for sale! It’s not cheap, but I thought it was fair for a gift shop product.
Tip: don’t wait till the last minute to make your purchase. I don’t want you to have the same blunder as we did, everyone was in a rush to get the gifts and it was just hectic. Head to the gift shops an hour or two earlier before the closing time to have a good look at all the items they have and make your purchase leisurely.
15. Artemis Exhibit
The Artemis space mission, which will send people back to the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years, is portrayed in lighted panels that you can walk through. Through the Artemis, you will see the first black and female astronauts on the moon.
You will learn more about Artemis through engaging exhibits and practical exercises. Feel the differences between an Artemis and Apollo lunar landing site, feel the layers of a spacesuit used for moonwalking, create your very own mission patch, and more. Even better, you can ask an astronaut questions in writing!
Become a space explorer on your own. Craft your own lunar habitat and discuss the items you’d pack for a lunar mission.
Here you can get Instagram-worthy pictures throughout the exhibit. Take a selfie with the NASA team, with the inflatable Moon, inside the Orion capsule panel, and more.
16. Eat Astronaut Food
There is one activity you won’t want to miss as you are learning about how astronauts manage everything in space!
You must sample astronaut food! Before your visit, you can order astronaut food on Amazon, or you can purchase it there.
Additionally, they feature a dining section called the Zero-G diner, which serves a variety of dishes, including sandwiches, vegetarian alternatives, grilled cuisine, burgers, and pizza.
Unless you have pre-booked the lunch with an astronaut tour, in which case lunch will be served at a different location, food is not included on your entry ticket.
Except for baby food, outside food is not permitted at Space Center Houston. More so, there is nowhere on the property where alcoholic beverages are served.
17. Plenty of Hotels To Spend The Night Near NASA Space Center
There are several well-known hotel chains in the vicinity of the NASA Space Center. There are many options for hotels for visitors like Super 8 by Wyndham Houston/Webster/NASA (0.8 miles away), South Shore Harbour Resort & Conference Center (2 miles away), Courtyard Houston Nasa/Clear Lake (0.4miles away), and Hilton Houston Nasa Clear Lake (1.4 miles away).
18. Plenty of Eateries And Restaurants Near the NASA Space Center
There are many Restaurants and eateries where you can enjoy delicious meals outside the NASA Space Center. Bon Appetit Cafe, Gordo Ninos Gordo Ninos, Pho Hoang Restaurant Incorporated, and Frenchie’s Italian Cuisine.
Tips for visiting Houston
- Houston CityPass
You should buy the Houston CityPass if you want to see the best of Houston. You may save up to 47% on some of Houston’s biggest attractions by getting the pass for US$64.
You can visit five of the most popular attractions in Houston when you purchase the Houston CityPass, including the Space Center Houston, the Downtown Aquarium, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Zoo OR Museum of Fine Arts, and the Houston Kemah Boardwalk OR Children’s Museum of Houston.
- Tips for parents;
Although welcome, strollers must be left at the parking lot for activities like the tram tour.
If you have older children between the ages of 14 and 18, check out their Space Center U program for details on weeklong space camps.
- Their website’s Visitor Information page also includes helpful hints and suggested itineraries. When you arrive, you can also pick up daily schedules to help you arrange your day.
- You can avoid the line by purchasing tickets online ahead of time.
- You can obtain priority boarding on the NASA Tram Tour if you become a member, which only costs a few dollars more than the ticket fee.
- The majority of visitors arrive on weekends, holidays, and during the summer. Visit off-season or ive as early as possible during high season for a more calm experience.