To get close to the historic action, head to Space Center Houston, located a 45-minute drive from downtown. At the official visitor centre of the NASA Johnson Space Center, you can learn more about human space exploration and see where astronauts train.
The first thing you’ll notice entering Space Center Houston is Independence Plaza, with its replica space shuttle and the original shuttle carrier, a modified Boeing 747. Climb aboard the shuttle replica, Independence, where you can explore the flight deck, astronaut quarters and payload bay, before making your way down to the interactive exhibits inside the 159-ton shuttle carrier aircraft, NASA 905.
Regular admission is US$29.95 for adults and US$24.95 for children aged four to 11.
The Level 9 Tour gives you access to areas of the facility where astronauts train. During this four- to five-hour tour, guides will share detailed information about human space exploration while they lead you through a number of iconic locations, such as NASA’s Orion Mission Control (where NASA will monitor the mission to Mars) and the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, where astronauts train to prepare for their journeys.
The VIP experience costs US$179.95 and includes regular admission.
You may not be able to visit the moon—not yet, at least—but you can experience what it would be like by seeing exhibits and artifacts from the Apollo era. Get close to the Apollo 17 command module, which was used for the last lunar landing, and view the largest collection of moon rocks on public display—you can even touch a piece of the celestial body. In the Astronaut Gallery, you’ll be able to view the different space suits worn on a variety of NASA missions over the years.
Reading about space exploration is one thing, but listening to stories from those who have been there—such as Jerry Ross, who shares the record for the most spaceflights, or Anna Fisher, the first mother in space—is an out-of-this-world opportunity. You will learn more about training missions and what life is like in space while enjoying a meal prepared in-house.
Tickets are US$69.95 for adults and US$35.95 for children between the ages of four and 11, and must be pre-purchased.
The NASA tram tours are how you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the NASA Johnson Space Center facilities. Choose from the Astronaut Facility Tour, where you’ll see replica space equipment used for training, or opt for the Orion Mission Control Center Tour, where NASA will monitor future space missions. Both tours include a visit to Rocket Park, so you can see one of the few remaining Saturn V rockets, which helped launch 27 astronauts into space during six different missions. —B.C.
Another Moon Landing Site to Visit: Lunar Legacy in Flagstaff, Arizona
Located a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, this community is where astronauts—among them Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin—trained for lunar missions. At a site near the city, geologists simulated the cratered surface of the moon using explosives so equipment such as the lunar rovers could be tested. The local United States Geological Survey office is still home to a lunar rover vehicle simulator, which is on display at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center on North Gemini Road. —D.L.