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Space Center Houston

Coordinates: 29°33′07″N 95°05′54″W / 29.5518812°N 95.0983429°W / 29.5518812; -95.0983429
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Space Center Houston
Entrance to the Space Center Houston
Location1601 NASA Parkway
Houston, Texas 77058 US
Coordinates29°33′07″N 95°05′54″W / 29.5518812°N 95.0983429°W / 29.5518812; -95.0983429
OpenedOct. 16, 1992[1]
Operated byManned Spaceflight Education Foundation[2]
ThemeNASA and space exploration
Operating seasonClosed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving
Attendance>1 million (2022)
The Apollo 17 command module America is on exhibit at the Space Center

Space Center Houston is a science museum that serves as the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It was designated a Smithsonian Affiliate museum in 2014. The organization is owned by NASA, and operated under a contract by the nonprofit Manned Spaceflight Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. The Johnson Space Center is the home of Mission Control and astronaut training.[3]

The center opened in 1992[4] replacing the former Visitor Center in Johnson Space Center Building 2. The museum is 250,000 square feet (23,000 m2) and displays over 400 space artifacts, including the Mercury 9, Gemini 5, and Apollo 17 space capsules.

Starship gallery[edit]

This artifact gallery includes three flown spacecraft, several used in training, and a display of Moon rocks:[5]

Independence Plaza[edit]

The Space Shuttle replica Independence sits atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905, one of the two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, with the Johnson Space Center and Rocket Park in the background

Space Center Houston is the home of the Independence Plaza exhibit complex. This attraction contains the world's only Space Shuttle replica, where it stands mounted on one of the two original shuttle carrier aircraft. Independence Plaza is the only place where the public can enter both vehicles. The Space Shuttle replica Independence, formerly known as Explorer, was previously located at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, but was moved to make way for a new permanent attraction hall for Space Shuttle Atlantis. Independence is now displayed atop the retired Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905.[6] On August 14, 2014, a heavy lift called The Rise of Independence was completed to place Independence on top of NASA 905.[7] The plane was transported to Space Center Houston from Ellington Airport on April 30, 2014.[8]

Space Center Houston was briefly considered as a home for one of the retired Space Shuttle orbiters, but the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and California Science Center were instead selected. A NASA report showing the final scoring showed Space Center Houston finished 10th among 13 museums competing for the three orbiters (not already committed to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum).

Rocket Park[edit]

Of the three remaining Saturn V rockets on display, only the one at the Johnson Space Center is made up of segments originally intended for flight. The first stage of this Saturn V rocket is from SA-514 (originally intended for the cancelled Apollo 19), the second stage from SA-515 (originally intended for the cancelled Apollo 20), and the third stage from SA-513, which was not needed after it was replaced by the Skylab workshop. SA-513 was originally scheduled for the cancelled Apollo 18 – the rest of the rocket was used for Skylab. The Apollo Command/Service Module CSM-115a (intended for Apollo 19) completes the rocket as it would stand on the launchpad.[9]

The Saturn V, on loan from the Smithsonian, was displayed outside the Johnson Space Center main entrance from 1977 through 2004. Grants from the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures program, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and private contributors[10] funded the restoration by Conservation Solutions of Washington DC with oversight by the Smithsonian.[11][12]

An open air tram tour takes the general public into the Johnson Space Center with stops including building 30 (location of the Historic Mission Operations Control Room 2 and the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center), Building 9 (location of the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility) and Rocket Park with a restored Saturn V rocket.[5]

Mission Mars[edit]

The exhibit Mission Mars opened in January 2017 and was developed with the help of NASA. It focuses on the work NASA is doing now to plan for future travel to Mars. Mission Mars teaches visitors about the planet through a variety of activities that transport them to the Martian landscape, including a virtual reality wall, real-time weather forecasts, and a Mars meteorite that guests can touch. Visitors can also see a full-size Orion research capsule, experience an Orion spacecraft simulator, and get a look at the next generation of Mars rovers.

Other exhibitions and experiences[edit]

  • Tram tours offer guided access[13] to NASA Johnson Space Center's historic Mission Control center, Rocket Park and astronaut training facilities.
  • The Astronaut Gallery showcases a comprehensive collection of spacesuits, including Pete Conrad's Apollo 12 moonwalk suit.
  • The Space Center Theater is a five-story tall 4K resolution theater that shows EVA 23 and Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo.
  • The Destiny Theater has a HD digital screen and shows a short historical film, Human Destiny,[14] produced by Bob Rogers and BRC Imagination Arts.[15]
  • The live interactive performance Living in Space,[16] produced by Bob Rogers and BRC Imagination Arts, employs projection mapping technology to assist with the live onstage presentation of daily life on the International Space Station.[17]
  • The Mission Briefing Center features live presentations offering real-time updates on current NASA missions.
  • International Space Station Gallery provides a look inside the space station.
  • Talon Park has a pair of NASA T-38 Talon jets greeting visitors at the street entrance to the Space Center Houston campus.


The Manned Space Flight Education Foundation's education department at Space Center Houston is among the nation's leading science-education resources.[citation needed] The programs are based on national science standards and focus on interactive science, technology, and engineering and math (STEM) activities to inspire learning and develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills for all ages, especially as related to human spaceflight and exploration. Programs include:

  • Day camps
  • Distance learning
  • Field trips
  • Girls STEM Academy
  • Home School Days
  • Overnight experiences
  • Scout Camp-Ins
  • Sensory Friendly Evenings
  • Space Center U
  • Space Exploration Educators Conference
  • Stars & STEM
  • Team building for corporations



  1. ^ Davis, Clint (October 4, 2022). "In 1992, Space Center Houston's opening gave the space program a needed boost". Houston Chronicle.
  2. ^ "Space Center Houston - About Us". Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  3. ^ "MSEFI History". Manned Spaceflight Educational Foundation Incorporated. Archived from the original on December 23, 2010.
  4. ^ "Foundation History". Space Center Houston. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Space Center Houston Official Souvenir Book. AeroGraphics, Inc. 2016. pp. 22–28.
  6. ^ "Space Center Houston steels itself for NASA 905's 'Big Move'". SpaceFlight Insider. April 28, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  7. ^ Rice, Harvey (August 14, 2014). "Shuttle replica makes final landing atop 747 at Space Center Houston". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  8. ^ "Space Shuttle Carrier to be Museum Piece". The Courier. Associated Press. April 28, 2014. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  9. ^ Gerard, Jim. "A Field Guide to American Spacecraft". www.americanspacecraft.com. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  10. ^ "Restoration Begins on Saturn V at JSC". NASA.
  11. ^ "National Air and Space Museum Works to Save Saturn V Moon Rocket". National Air and Space Museum. April 6, 2004. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  12. ^ "NASA - Restoration Begins on Saturn V at JSC". www.nasa.gov. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  13. ^ "Space Center Houston | NASA Tram Tour". May 23, 2023.
  14. ^ "Human Destiny". www.imdb.com.
  15. ^ "Space Center Houston Premieres Updated "Human Destiny"". NASA. June 28, 2012.
  16. ^ "Space Center Houston: Living in Space" (PDF). BRC Imagination Arts. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 24, 2013.
  17. ^ "The Feel of Space". Space Center Houston. Archived from the original on June 11, 2013.

External links[edit]