Houston Space Center Trip Report

The route to Houston Space Center from Dallas cuts through the downtown areas of both Dallas and Houston. Since the trip is four hours at the minimum each way good planning is critical for those attempting a day-trip. Leaving Dallas well before six offered a fringe benefit – city lights of downtown Dallas proved to be a treat and the alight Reunion Tower topped all else.

The regular price at the counter was: Adults - $19.95, Children (4-11) - $15.95, Senior Citizens (65+) - $18.95. An mp3 audio-tour option was available for $5. We chose not to avail that option – it might be worthwhile for those with an entire day at their disposal. Online tickets regularly offer a discount of $3 over those at the counter. Special seasonal discounts were available and we took advantage of their half the regular-price promotion. Group (15 or more) pricing was also half the regular fare. Parking was $5. A higher-end option was the Level 9 tour at $84.95 per ticket and that offered an exclusive behind-the-scenes look. Some of the highlights of that 4-5 hour tour were the observation cat-walks at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility and the Neutral Buoyancy Lab along with viewing areas at the New and Old Mission Control Center facilities. Level 9 tour operated once daily and was limited to 12 persons and departed at 11:45 AM.

The Garmin Nuvi 270 GPS (click for review) served its purpose in navigating us to the Space Center. The only confusion was the large construction work in progress at the exit to the Space Center. Parking right in front of the main building was aplenty. Well informed facility personnel reach out to help plan the time there. Though all the information is available online that human touch felt wonderful.

The first item on our agenda was the tram tour. At 10:30 AM there was nary a line but closer to noon, it was easily a one-hour wait to get to the main door – once past the main door, it is another 45 minutes before boarding the tram. The tram tour is a combination of a 20-30 minute excursion of the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility and a 20-30 minute of exploration at the Rocket Station (optional) complete with audio descriptions of the relevant memorials and buildings en-route. The mockup facility has a full-size space shuttle mockup and can be viewed through glass windows from the upstairs pavilion. Other training tools and mockups are also on display. The place was very windy and the tram ride was especially chilly – warm jackets are mandatory for early April.

The star attractions at the main building are the Starship Gallery, The Living in Space live presentation, and a presentation at the Northrup Grumman Theater which sports a five-story giant screen theater. Starship Gallery boasts the display of the world’s largest collection of moon rocks and allows physical contact with a real moon rock. The Rover is also on display. They also have a show that relives the triumphs of America’s manned space flight program titled “On Human Destiny” and numerous other exhibits (real and mockups). The kids also enjoyed the short time they had to play at the Kids Space Place and Martian Matrix attraction, a giant slide. Overall, the kids held up well for the entire tour – the only complaint was about the Northrup Grumman theater show being a little too long. Space captivates human mind by its enormity.

Ratings for the Houston Space Center are not that positive but our experience was to the contrary. In our opinion the Space Center succeeds in providing quality content to all age groups. It is more a question of gauging your interest as opposed to what is offered at the center – there are plenty of exhibits to capture one’s interest for an entire day. The price tag was not high even by our frugal standards and the promotions made it even better.

Last Updated: 02/2011.

1 comment :

Rachel Cotterill said...

Sounds like an interesting day out, tahnks for the writeup :)

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