Space Center Houston logo
|Slogan||Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center|
|Location||1601 NASA Parkway|
Houston, Texas 77058
|Operated by||Manned Spaceflight Education Foundation|
|Opened||Oct. 16, 1992|
|Operating season||Closed only on Christmas Day. Hours vary by season.|
|Visitors per annum||>1 million (2017)|
Space Center Houston is a leading science and space learning center, the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and a Smithsonian Affiliate museum. 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.
The center opened in 1992 and hosts more than 1 million visitors annually in its 250,000-square-foot educational complex. It is one of the top destinations in Houston holding the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. The center holds over 400 space artifacts, permanent and traveling exhibits, attractions, live shows and theaters dedicated to preserving the history of America's human spaceflight program. It has a number of significant artifact galleries.
The center has extensive STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education programs for all ages and draws more than 200,000 students and teachers each year. It annually generates a $73 million economic impact, 925 jobs and $36 million in personal income in greater Houston, according to a 2016 economic study by Jason Murasko and Stephen Cotten, associate professors of economics at the University of Houston–Clear Lake.
These artifacts (except Skylab) were formerly housed in Johnson Space Center's former Visitor Center in Building 2.
Space Center Houston is the home of the one-of-a-kind Independence Plaza exhibit complex. This landmark 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, previously was 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. On August 14, 2014, a heavy lift called The Rise of Independence was completed to place Independence on top of NASA 905. The plane was transported to Space Center Houston from Ellington Airport on April 30, 2014. The center opened the giant exhibit complex on January 23, 2016 at an estimated cost of US$15 million. The giant complex is the biggest project for Space Center Houston since opening in 1992.
The general public can visit Johnson Space Center only via Space Center Houston's open-air tram tour. The tour includes 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. The tram tour visits working government facilities which are subject to availability and can temporarily close to visitors without notice.:38-44
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) caps the pointy end. NASA displayed the restored Saturn V, on loan from the Smithsonian, outside from 1977 through 2004, when the Smithsonian took ownership. Grants from the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures program, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and private contributors funded the restoration.
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 also can see a full-size Orion linkresearch capsule, experience an Orion spacecraft simulator and get a look at the next generation of Mars rovers.
The Manned Space Flight Education Foundation's education department at Space Center Houston is among the nation's leading science-education resources. The programs are based on national science standards and focus on interactive science, technology, 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:
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Skylab training model
A rear view of the Saturn V on display