Get Ready for Take Off at NASA Space Center Houston
As the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston is the closest you'll get to outer space without leaving Earth. The museum hosts over 400 artifacts from space and plenty of exciting exhibits, and even offers the opportunity to go behind the scenes to see NASA's Johnson Space Center! Even if you don't harbor dreams of being an astronaut, Space Center Houston is a reliably entertaining and educational way to spend an afternoon (or an entire day if you're so inclined) when you're in looking for things to do in Houston.
Johnson Space Center Facts
Before NASA Space Center Houston existed, the JSC auditorium displayed priceless artifacts and models that reflected a rich history of space exploration, but no one except those with access to the building could see them or was even aware of their existence. The Space Center itself is the culmination of years of work by the devoted members of the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, a non-profit initially conceived by Hal Stall, the director of Public Affairs at the NASA Johnson Space Center. He and the other passionate supporters craved a way to share NASA's fantastic story with the world.
NASA Space Center Houston's mission was (and still is) to educate and amaze visitors… to capture the mystique of space so people could fully appreciate its majesty. To achieve this, the non-profit partnered with none other than the masters of magic themselves: Disney Imagineers. In collaboration with BRC Imagination Arts, Disney conceptualized an incredibly engaging experience that became Space Center Houston. Think of it like the space-themed Disney World of Texas.
Visiting NASA Space Center Houston
Plan out the logistics of your trip to Space Center Houston before you go so you can enjoy time with your family during your trip.
Space Center Houston Hours
Be sure to check the official calendar on their website before planning your visit.
Space Center Houston Tickets
You can purchase tickets for NASA Space Center Houston on their website or via a ticket booth inside the space. If you're gunning for a discount, try CityPASS Houston. You'll save on Houston's most popular attractions including the Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Zoo, and other tourist favorites.
Space Center Houston Parking
Space Center Houston provides visitor parking for $5 and accepts cash and credit cards.
NASA's Space Center Houston Attractions
There's plenty to keep you busy for hours at Space Center Houston. Learn all about the ongoing exhibits below:
- Starship Gallery — Admire real spacecrafts in this fascinating exhibit including the Apollo 17 Command Module, Mercury 9 "Faith 7," Gemini V, and more. Walk through the orbital workshop of the Skylab 1-G Trainer and the living quarters for astronauts training for a space mission. Take a selfie at the actual podium John F. Kennedy used during his famous 1962 speech imploring America to reach the moon. Touch a 3.8 billion-year-old moon rock, and get an eyeful of a Lunar Roving Vehicle used for astronaut training purposes. Take your time wandering through this fascinating and educational exhibit.
- Astronaut Gallery — Filled with real spacesuits and assorted astronaut apparel, this exhibit features Sally K. Ride's in-flight coveralls, Kathryn Sullivan's shuttle extravehicular mobile unit (a space suit that acts like a mini-spacecraft), Ed White's extravehicular activity training suit (which is identical to the one he wore while floating outside the Gemini IV in low Earth orbit), and more. You'll come to appreciate the genius required to build these wearable life-supporting machines and learn about each of the astronauts who wore them.
- Independence Plaza — Explore the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft that carried out over 200 shuttle runs during its 42-year career, as well as a replica of the space shuttle Independence. Inside the Independence, you'll get to see the flight deck and the astronauts' cramped living conditions and even get a chance to walk out on the payload bay. The interior of the NASA 905 features engaging interactive displays and hands-on exhibits that will teach you all about the riveting history of the shuttle program.
- Mission Mars — Space travel has never seemed so accessible! Bask in the glow of a virtual Martian sunset and feel a real meteorite from the red planet in this stunning exhibit. You'll learn everything you wanted to know about Mars, including its weather patterns, what astronauts will wear when exploring its terrain, and what it looks like on the surface. NASA Tram Tour – The most popular attraction at NASA Space Center Houston fills up quickly, so be sure to allow plenty of time to ride it during your visit. You'll have the option of visiting a few historic JSC locations, depending on your preferences and how much time you have: Rocket Park, home of the 363-foot tall Saturn V rocket; the Astronaut Training Facility tour, which hosts the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility used for astronaut training; and the Mission Control Center Tour, where you'll visit the Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control. Outside of becoming an employee, this is the closest you'll get to seeing what it's like working for NASA.
- International Space Station Gallery — Orbiting around the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour, this massive laboratory hosts astronauts who conduct valuable research to enhance our understanding of the cosmos. Learn all about the ISS through interactive robotic exhibits and the live show Living in Space in this recently updated exhibit.
- Films and Live Presentations — The Space Center Theater boasts a 4K projector that streams an ultra-high resolution display, perfect for any of the exciting movies available for screening on the day of your visit. Mission Briefing Center features an officer relaying real-time updates of current outer space missions – ask all the questions you want at the end! Destiny Theater plays continuous showings of the film "Human Destiny," whose narrative explains the history of NASA and its wondrous undertakings since its inception.
Those willing to shell out a little extra for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience will have the option of enjoying a delicious catered lunch with an astronaut, or going on a Level 9 Tour, a VIP guided tour (that can last up to five hours) of the NASA Johnson Space Center. In addition to visiting a few locations that aren't on the NASA Tram Tour, you'll have an expert guide at your side the entire time imparting insider knowledge and answering all your questions. The Level 9 Tour ticket also includes a second-day ticket to NASA Space Center Houston, so you can take your time exploring the rest of the museum.
How Long is the NASA Tour?
The NASA tram tour takes about 90 minutes. It's the most popular attraction, so make sure to plan ahead so you'll have time to do the tour and check out the other must-see exhibits.
NASA Space Center Houston Events
The fun at Johnson Space Center doesn't end when regular operating hours end. The Space Center plays host to plenty of fun events and activities multiple times per week, such as its popular Thought Leader Series, which features talks given by astronauts, NASA senior leadership, and other space experts once a month.
Other events include Starlight Socials, a networking opportunity for young professionals interested in space, and Space Exploration Events, which can be anything from a book signing to a presentation on historic missions.
The NASA Space Center Houston is sure to provide hours of enjoyment, regardless of your level of interest in space. The engaging exhibits are sure to impress even the most reticent of guests, and with the Disney Imagineers behind the design, how could it not?
To get the most out of your stay in Houston, we recommend finding lodging near Houston's top attractions like Space Center Houston. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:
Visit Space Center Houston for Less With CityPASS
Ready to blast off? Before you leave Earth, or your hometown at least, make sure you get your Houston CityPASS so you can explore more for less! CityPASS admission gives you access to Houston's must-visits spots like Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Zoo, and more! Save money on your tickets and get out there to experience everything Houston has to offer.
Header Image Courtesy of Space Center Houston