Space Center Houston

This iconic “mission control” was immortalized for its role in the first moon landing.

Space Center Houston is the official visitors’ center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center. This was Mission Control for many significant space flights since the 1960s, including the first moon landing. Today, visitors can take a tour of the grounds and learn about life in space. It’s the number one tourist destination in Houston.

The Johnson Space Center was originally called the Center for Human Spaceflight, and later known as Mission Control. It was built in 1961 as part of President John F. Kennedy’s goal to get a man on the moon by the end of the ’60s. NASA used it as a center for research and astronaut training. During flights, including the historic moon landing, the center also served as ground control. “Houston, the eagle has landed” were the first words spoken on the moon. The center still plays a central role for NASA as Mission Control and the training ground for the United States Astronaut Corps.

Visit Space Center Houston to experience first-hand what it’s like to travel through the outer atmosphere. There’s a space suit gallery, as well as authentic and recreated space shuttles and capsules. Take a seat in a flight simulator and experience lift off on a mock space mission. Experience what it’s like to watch a rocket launch at the Blast Off IMAX Theater, complete with sound, smoke machines, hot air and huge screens.

Daily demonstrations in the Living Space Module (a replica of inside a shuttle) show how astronauts live in space, down to showering and eating. Inspect real rockets, command modules and training machines for astronauts.

There are two behind-the-scenes tours that go through the Johnson Space Center. The Tram Tour takes visitors through Mission Control and the astronaut training facilities. The four-hour “Level 9 Tour” takes groups of 12 deeper inside the facility and includes lunch in the Astronaut Cafeteria. Call ahead to make reservations, as space on these tours is limited.

On your way out, stop by the gift shop and buy a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich, a snack astronauts eat in space.

The center is about a half-hour drive from downtown, and free parking is available. There’s an admission fee, and tours are extra.

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