Walk in Space
Explore the wonders of science and space through exhibits, events and learning opportunities at the Space Center Houston.
Humans have a long history of fascination with the cosmos. Space Center Houston is a tribute to this abiding wonder and humankind’s forays into space. For many, a trip to Houston is incomplete without a visit to the space center. A Smithsonian Affiliate, the museum is also the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center. More than 250,000 teachers and students from around the world come here annually, since the museum is a space and science exploration learning center, with more than 400 things to see and do. It is also a certified autism center. It draws more than a million visitors annually and generates about $73 million annual economic impact in the greater Houston area.
Documenting space history
Space Center Houston has one of the largest collections of spacesuits and Moon rocks on public display in the world. Its Starship Gallery is home to multiple flown spacecraft and amazing artifacts that trace the history of space exploration. Chronicling our attempts to fly to the Moon, for instance, the gallery has the Apollo 17 Command Module and a Moon rock that visitors are encouraged to touch. It also has a full-size Skylab Training module, created out of the final stage of a Saturn V rocket to develop methods of living and working in space for long periods.
The people behind the missions are celebrated through insights into their lives. For example, Eugene Kranz, flight director for the Gemini and Apollo programs, wore colorful vests handmade by his wife for luck. “Given his record of success, including the recovery of the three astronauts on Apollo 13, the vests seem to have held up their end of the bargain,” states the space center website. Kranz’s iconic Apollo 17 vest can be seen in the Starship Gallery timeline. As Chris W, a recent visitor, writes on a TripAdvisor review, “The exhibits were amazing, and I loved the authenticity of all the exhibits we saw. Nothing could prepare me for seeing the Saturn V in person though. The size was astounding.”
Earlier this year, Space Center Houston celebrated the legacy of the Apollo era and the future of space exploration, through an array of space-themed activities. These included NASA Tram Tours to Rocket Park and the Apollo Mission Control Center, notable speakers, book signings, an outdoor festival with a concert and a family zone with hands-on activities, robotics challenges and Apollo-themed learning experiences.
Space Center Houston’s Learning Innovation Center is among the United States’ leading science education resources. Different programs, based on national science standards and with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), are designed to help children and adults think critically; learn about the past, present and future of America’s space flight program; and build a greater understanding of the world. Its educational programs for children are aimed to inspire them to be among the first humans to walk on Mars. Also, aspiring astronauts can stay overnight at the museum and work on exciting, program-specific, hands-on activities designed to build STEM skills.
The museum has accessible educational camp experiences specially designed for individuals ages 4 and above who can benefit from a learning environment tailored for those with complex learning needs. The Mars for Everyone camp, for instance, is recommended for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
To meet the growing need to make STEM learning accessible, Space Center Houston is expanding the way people learn about space exploration and its unique offerings. It has launched a free mobile phone app for an interactive experience. Available in multiple languages, the app features self-guided virtual tours, augmented reality experiences, information and updates about the museum, and videos and audio stories about the historic feats in space exploration and the future.
Paromita Pain is an assistant professor of Global Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.