Just about 30 miles southeast of downtown Houston is a place most Texans have never visited, but one we all should see at least once.
Considering this is the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, this might be the best time to Visit NASA.
NASA – Johnson Space Center
On May 25, 1961, just five months after his inauguration, President John F. Kennedy announced a lofty goal. He declared that the United States would now be on a mission to send an American astronaut to the Moon before the end of that very decade.
To that end, Johnson Space Center (known as the Manned Space Center until 1973) was established in Houston in 1961 and has continued to be the hub of NASA’s efforts in human space exploration.
Who Should Go
From the time our kids were born, it seems like we spent a whole lot of time on the road.
Between visits to see grandparents, sporting events and family vacations, we wore a 14-year old Suburban nearly plum-out.
While I loved every single solitary minute of those miles and smiles, I have to say that Sightseeing Over Fifty is a new and really wonderful way to go.
No strollers, no sticky fingers, nobody fidgeting in the back seat.
On our recent day trip adventure to the Johnson Space Center, I wondered why in the world we never brought the kids to see it when we had them at home.
And then I looked at our adult daughter and her amazing adult husband who were with us, and I thought to myself: Just as well.
I think a lot of what you’ll see at NASA is a look back in time, which would interest any child who loves history. And there are plenty of interactive exhibits to engage them in the whole space-y experience.
But in so many ways, I found myself thinking that this was the perfect time to tour The Johnson Space Center.
Don’t get me wrong.
If you want to take your grandkids, by all means, do it. There will be lots to talk about as you share what you remember and what you know about.
Beware of inviting your favorite kids in all the world to go, however, if they’re not old enough or interested enough to last for a pretty long chunk of a day.
You can always help pay for them to have a memorable experience of their own at one of the Center’s Summer Explorer Camps.
Cost of Admission
The price of admission to NASA – Johnson Space Center is about $30, which includes admission to all the exhibits, as well as a ride on the Tram Tour.
The first impressive sight you’ll see at NASA is visible all the way from the parking lot.
NASA 905 is on display here at Independence Plaza, along with a replica of the shuttle Independence. There is no other shuttle mounted on a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) that is open for the public to go inside.
Visitors to the Johnson Space Center have an opportunity to step inside the Boeing plane that was used to carry Space Shuttles from their landing sites back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Impressive to say the least.
The Tram Tour
Johnson Space Center is a pretty sprawling place, with many buildings spread out on over 1600 acres of land.
The Tram Tour makes it easy to get around to see it all and is included in the price of admission.
The first stop is Rocket Park, where you can see the Saturn V rocket. This thing is huge. It’s truly the heaviest, tallest and most powerful rocket ever flown.
From 1967 to 1973, this rocket launched 27 astronauts into space for six Moon landing missions. In its final mission, the Saturn V launched America’s first space station into orbit.
Buildings and More Buildings
The Tram Tour guide gives the low-down on what some of the buildings here at Johnson Space Center are used for, like this one.
Building 17 is the Space Food Systems Laboratory, where foods are tested and configured for space missions.
The tour guide also points out other important buildings along the route, including the one where NASA’s 110 astronauts have offices.
Mission Control Center
Kristopher G. Kraft, Jr. Mission Control Center (known by its callsign “Houston”) is the highlight of the Tram Tour. This is the flight control room for space missions. It’s the very place where the world heard man’s words when his foot touched the surface of the Moon.
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Amstrong, July 20, 1969
Presentation from an Astronaut
Check the times for astronaut speeches when you first arrive. By the time we noticed that Clayton Anderson would be speaking, we were almost late to the theater. I’m so glad we didn’t miss it. Mr. Anderson had the whole audience on the edge of our seats and in the palm of his hand as we heard his stories of life before, during and after space flight.
Follow Mr. Anderson on Facebook here, and order his book, The Ordinary Spaceman, here.
So Much More
There’s so much more to see at NASA – Johnson Space Center.
In one section of the visitor’s center, a whole wall is dedicated to pictures of every space mission crew. In addition, some of the actual space suits are displayed in glass cases.
Why You Should Go
Eight years after President Kennedy issued the call for Americans to put a man on the moon, the historic day occurred.
Here at NASA – Johnson Space Center, the full force of that decision is felt and realized. This is a place to marvel at what brought it to pass.
There are 10 NASA facilities in the United States, but only one where the focus is human spaceflight.
Texas is the place they chose to build it, and every Texan should take an opportunity to visit NASA.
From witnessing displays of scientific knowledge to hearing from a man who’s been launched into space, a day at NASA will make you one proud American.
Encouraging a lifetime of everyday intentional adventure, along with a fresh appreciation for historic moments in time and space,