The US Space and Rocket Center,
a Smithsonian Affiliate, is
located on the north side of the Redstone Arsenal in
Huntsville, Alabama. Additionally, this site is the
official visitor center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Center, the birthplace of the Nation's space and rocket
program. The the Space and Rocket center also hosts the
well known Space Camp made popular by the 1986 movie of
the same name.
The public site includes a museum with many rockets and
space-related artifacts (largest collection anywhere), a
space shuttle, and a wide variety of vintage military
equipment on display inside and out. Additionally, there
is a handful of space themed amusement park rides,
various simulators, a rock wall, and a 3D/IMAX theater.
Altogether, the US Space and Rocket Center has
everything it takes to keep a family busy for the better
part of a day.
The US Space and Rocket Center hosts quite a number of
events, mostly aimed at attracting kids and young adults
with interest in science, technology, engineering, and
math (STEM). While we were visiting, there was a
robotics presentation and play area sponsored by Lego.
Additionally, NASA sponsors an annual engineering
challenge called the "Great Moonbuggy Race where
students design, build, and race a human powered vehicle
through an obstacle course. FUN!
As far as nearby
attractions, it's a little too soon to tell for us. When
we visited, we were actually camping quite a distance
away at Desoto State Park near Fort Payne, Alabama. We
will visit again sometime soon and check out the area.
Entry Date: March/April 2013
Spring was almost here, and we'd made plans for camping in Alabama
and Tennessee over a period of 10-12 days. The weather
is always questionable this time of year, so we made
some back-up plans just in case it rained. The first leg
of our journey had us at
Desoto State Park near Fort Payne, Alabama, and the
rain came on our third day there.
One was the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. It
was about an hour and a half away, but we knew from
experience it would be well worth the drive. We arrived
late morning and almost immediately went into the
unusual domed theater watch a movie about the Hubble
telescope. The images were incredible! My only advice
here is to get as high-up in the seating as possible,
and watch your step.
From there we entered the primary museum area. According
to those that know such things, this museum has the
finest collection of artifacts depicting the US's race
to space. There are literally thousands of unique
items: engines, space suits, aircraft, space capsules,
rockets, simulators, more than I could list here. This
part of the museum is a little old and showing a little
wear and tear, but still an awesome place.
From there, we wandered outside to look at some of the
rockets and military equipment. Fortunately, the rain
held-off for the most part, sprinkling just enough to
keep it interesting. There are a few amusement park-like
rides here, and the kids enjoyed them thoroughly. Their
two favorite rides were a centrifugal force
demonstration and a rocket launch simulator. They rode
both multiple times since there was absolutely no line
whatsoever. I'd like to point out that, when visiting
this area, the rides may or may not be operating. You
may have to ask. In our case, they gladly ran the rides
for our kids.
building was new for us. We'd been here a few years
back, the the "Saturn V Hall" something like we'd never
seen. The huge 68,000 square foot building houses one of
only three real Saturn V rockets in the world. The
exhibits are very interactive displaying capsules, a
space station, a moon rock, and hundreds of other
exciting goodies. Kids can climb into training capsules
and flip switches like they're in the real deal. It was
really a lot of fun for the kids (ahem...).
outside, we visited the space shuttle and took a picture
of the kids similar to one we made on our last visit
seven years ago. On the way back through the older
building, the kids discovered a simulator that everyone
rode and a rock wall that everyone climbed. Exhaustion,
however, was setting in (and the kids were tired too).
We certainly had a lot of fun, but had a difficult time
exiting the gift shop. There were lots of things on
sale, so we picked-up some shirts and such. What a great