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Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston Color Stacked.svg
Location 1601 NASA Parkway
Houston, Texas 77058 US
Owner NASA
Operated by Manned Spaceflight Education Foundation
Opened Oct. 16, 1992
Operating season Closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving
Visitors per annum >1 million (2017)
Status open
Apollo 17 CM Houston
The Apollo 17 command module America is on exhibit at the Space Center

Space Center Houston is a science museum which serves as the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. It earned a place as 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.

The center opened in 1992 replacing the former Visitor Center in Johnson Space Center Building 2. the 250,000 square feet (23,000 m2) museum displays 400 space artifacts, permanent and traveling exhibits, and theaters with a focus on the history of the human spaceflight program. The center also hosts STEM programs for all ages.

Starship gallery

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

Independence Plaza

Space Center Houston Shuttle atop Carrler
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 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.

Space Center Houston was 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 among showed Space Center Houston finished 10th among 13 museums competing for the three orbiters (not already committed to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum). While the museum scored well in commitment and logistics, it scored poorly on popularity among international visitors and was not affiliated with either the Smithsonian or American Association of Museums.

Rocket Park

Of the three remaining Saturn V rockets on display, only the one at JSC is made up of segments 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.

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 funded the restoration by Conservation Solutions of Washington DC with oversight by the Smithsonian.

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. A five-hour guided tour which adds stops at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility and International Space Station museum is also offered at an additional cost.

Mission Mars

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.

Other attractions

John F. Kennedy speaks at Rice University
The exhibited lectern was used by President John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1962, in a speech at Rice University Stadium remembered for the words "We choose to go to the Moon"
  • Astronaut Gallery showcases a comprehensive collection of spacesuits, including Pete Conrad's Apollo 12 moonwalk suit.
  • The lectern that President John F. Kennedy used during his 1962 Rice University Stadium speech reiterating his goal to land an American on the Moon in the 1960s, is exhibited inside Destiny Theater.
  • Space Center Theater is a five-story tall 4K resolution theater that shows EVA 23 and Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo.
  • Destiny Theater has a HD digital screen and shows a short historical film, Human Destiny, produced by Bob Rogers and BRC Imagination Arts.
  • The live interactive performance Living in Space, produced by Bob Rogers and BRC Imagination Arts, employs high-tech projection mapping technology to assist with the live onstage educational presentation of daily life on the International Space Station.
  • A Stellar Science Show is a live program that lets guests become rocket scientists through interactive experiments performed by a center Crew Member.
  • Mission Briefing Center features live presentations offering real-time updates on current NASA missions.
  • The center offers an opportunity to have "Lunch with an Astronaut" for an extra cost.
  • International Space Station Gallery provides a look inside the space station – from interactive live shows to a Robonaut and actual flown space station artifacts.
  • Talon Park has a pair of NASA T-38 Talon jets greeting visitors at the street entrance to the Space Center Houston campus.
  • The original shuttlecraft Galileo prop from Star Trek: The Original Series was unveiled July 31, 2013, and displayed at the Zero-G Diner. As of October 2019, the shuttlecraft is no longer on display.


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:

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


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