For fans of space exploration, any visit to Houston must include a stop at Space Center Houston, the official visitor center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The facility gives visitors a firsthand look at what’s happening now in space exploration, from ongoing research on the International Space Station to new missions made possible through commercial partnerships.
The museum houses space artifacts, flown spacecraft and several rockets, including a Space X Falcon 9 rocket that flew twice to the International Space Station (ISS). The visitor center is also the gateway for tours of the Johnson Space Center. Tram tours take visitors to Rocket Park, which has numerous rockets to explore, including a Saturn 5 rocket that is similar to the one that took astronauts to the moon.
The tour also takes visitors to Apollo Mission Control, the command center that monitored the Apollo missions. The control center has been restored so that groups sit in the viewing room where families and dignitaries observed the moon landing. As they peer through the glass into mission control, they see the consoles come to life and get to watch footage from just before and during the historic moon landing. The 45-minute experience is narrated by Gene Kranz, the former chief flight director for the Gemini and Apollo missions.
The astronaut training facility, where astronauts can train on multiple replicas of the ISS, is another fun stop on the tour.