Visiting the Johnson Houston Space Center

Saturn V block at the Johnson Space Center
Saturn V block at the Johnson Space Center. Paul Hudson/Flickr

Every NASA mission is controlled from the Johnson Space Center (JSC)  in Houston, Texas. That's why you often hear astronauts on orbit call out "Houston". when they're communicating to Earth.  JSC is more than just mission control; it also houses training facilities for the astronauts and mockups for future missions. 

As you can imagine, JSC is a popular place to visit. To help visitors get the most out of their trip to JSC, NASA worked with the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation to create a unique visitor experience called Space Center Houston. It's open most days of the year and offers a lot in the way of space education, exhibits, and experiences. Here are a few of the highlights, and you can learn more at the center's website. Here's what to do at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. 

Space Center Theater

People of all ages are fascinated with what it takes to be an astronaut. This attraction shows the excitement, the commitment and the risks taken by the people who fly in space. Here we can see the evolution of the equipment and the training of the men and women who dreamed to be astronauts. We want guests to experience first hand what it takes to be an astronaut. The film, shown on a 5-story tall screen, takes the viewer by the heart to bring them into the life of an astronaut from the time they receive notification of their acceptance into the training program to their first mission.

Blast Off Theater

The only place in the world where you can personally experience the thrill of launching into space like a real astronaut. Not just a movie; it's the thrill of personally feeling the launch into space - from the rocket boosters to the billowing exhaust.

After docking at the International Space Station, guests enter the Blastoff Theater for an update on current shuttle missions, as well as details on the exploration of Mars.

NASA Tram Tour

With this behind-the-scenes journey through NASA's Johnson Space Center, you may visit the Historic Mission Control Center, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility or the current Mission Control Center. Before returning to Space Center Houston, you can visit the "all new" Saturn V Complex at Rocket Park. Occasionally, the tour may visit other facilities, such as the Sonny Carter Training Facility or Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. You may even get to see astronauts training for upcoming missions.

Keep in mind that the buildings visited on the tram tour are real working areas of Johnson Space Center and are subject to closure without notice.

Astronaut Gallery

The Astronaut Gallery is an unparalleled exhibit featuring the world's best collection of spacesuits. Astronaut John Young's ejection suit and Judy Resnik's T-38 flightsuit are two of the many spacesuits on display.

The walls of the Astronaut Gallery also contain portraits and crew photos of every U.S. astronaut who has flown in space.

The Feel of Space

The Living in Space module simulates what life could be like for astronauts aboard the space station. A Mission Briefing Officer gives a live presentation on how astronauts live in a space environment.

It uses humor to show how the smallest tasks like showering and eating are complicated by a microgravity environment. A volunteer from the audience helps to prove the point.

Beyond the Living in Space Module are 24 part task trainers that use sophisticated computer technology to provide visitors with the experience of landing the orbiter, retrieving a satellite or exploring the shuttle systems.

Starship Gallery

The journey into space begins with the film "On Human Destiny" at the Destiny Theater. Artifacts and hardware on display in the Starship Gallery trace the progression of America's Manned Space Flight.

This incredible collection includes: an original model of the Goddard Rocket; the actual Mercury Atlas 9 "Faith 7" capsule flown by Gordon Cooper; the Gemini V Spacecraft piloted by Pete Conrad and Gordon Cooper; a Lunar Roving Vehicle Trainer, the Apollo 17 Command Module, the giant Skylab Trainer, and the Apollo-Soyuz Trainer.

Kids Space Place

Kids Space Place was created for children of all ages who have always dreamed of experiencing the same things astronauts do in space.

Interactive exhibits and themed area make exploring the different aspects of space and the manned space flight program loads of fun.

Inside Kids Space Place, guests can explore and experiment commanding the space shuttle or living on the space station. (Age and/or height restrictions may apply on some activities.)

Level 9 Tour

The Level Nine Tour takes you behind the scenes to see the real world of NASA up close and personal. On this four-hour tour you will see things that only the astronauts see and eat what and where they eat.

All your questions will be answered by a very knowledgeable Tour Guide as you discover the secrets that have been kept behind closed doors for years.

The Level Nine Tour is Monday-Friday and includes a FREE HOT LUNCH in the astronauts' cafeteria which makes it a "Big Bang" for your buck! The only security clearance is that you must be 14 years of age or older.

The Space Center Houston is one of the most worthwhile trips any space fan can make. It combines history and real-time exploration in one fascinating day! 

Edited and updated by Carolyn Collins Petersen.

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Greene, Nick. "Visiting the Johnson Houston Space Center." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Greene, Nick. (2020, August 26). Visiting the Johnson Houston Space Center. Retrieved from Greene, Nick. "Visiting the Johnson Houston Space Center." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).

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