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3-2-1...Blast Off at Space Center Houston!

 by The Texas Travelin' Man

I have always been fascinated with space, “the final frontier”. As a kid, I followed the voyages of the starship Enterprise, joining Captain Kirk and his crew on many imaginary missions. But my real heroes were the actual space travelers - the NASA astronauts.  When I found out that one of my real heroes, Neil Armstrong (the commander of the Apollo Space mission and the first man to walk on the moon) had passed away recently, I couldn't think of a better way to honor him than by visiting Space Center Houston, the official visitors’ center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Space Center Houston has several interactive exhibits, many of which are geared towards kids, but that doesn't mean they are "childish" -- adults will still find them pretty cool too.  For example, there are simulations that allow you see what it feels like to walk in space or land on the moon. The Astronaut Gallery exhibits actual space suits that have been worn beyond earth's orbit.  You can also take in a space flight related movie at the Northrup Grumman Theater (the largest giant screen theater in Texas) and experience the excitement of launching into space at the Blast Off Theater.

I suggest you head for the tram ride first, like I did. It's included in the admission price and is the most popular thing to do here so there’s usually a wait, but it's worth it. On this tour, you get to see some of the actual Space Center grounds, and you might even spot some real NASA employees at work. We stopped at The Mission Control Center, and even though there wasn't’t a lot of activity going on that day, it's sort of incredible to walk in there and realize that this is the room where moon landings and so many other famous missions were coordinated.

We also stopped at the international space station which was interesting, but seeing Saturn V in Rocket Park was by far the best part of the tour.  It was huge, much larger than I realized, and an absolutely amazing sight to behold. 

Save some time to visit the Starship Gallery, too.  For me, it was worth the trip just to touch a real moon rock!  But all of the artifacts in the Starship Gallery are incredible: space capsules, The Apollo 17 command module, the giant skylab trainer, to name just a few. 

Check the Space Center Houston website for directions and hours. You can buy tickets online too.

All in all, I’d say even if astronauts aren’t your particular brand of hero, Space Center Houston is still a place that you'd enjoy.  But if you are really into space or science, then this place is a must-see!

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