The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama is an awesome display of America’s excellence in space. Just standing beneath a Saturn 5 Moon Rocket leaves you in awe as it hovers above, stretching 363 feet across the gallery. Rockets are a vital part of NASA’s space program and the people of Huntsville don’t seem to mind living in a place dubbed “Rocket City”.
Walking around the exhibits – both indoor and outdoor – children from all over the country (and the world – we talked to kids from south America) learn about space exploration of the past and present. Sure, it’s fun for adults, too. I wanted to be a kid again as I witnessed young people, probably 4th or 5th graders – taking part in the center’s popular “Space Camp”. I was impressed as they sat at a replica mission control console and punched buttons, gave commands and observed overhead monitors – as they worked to send a rocket into space.
On one overhead monitor – some of their camp mates were inside a replica space module completing other vital tasks and even in official astronaut gear. During their time at camp – they’ll also try out simulators like the one that teaches you how to walk across the moon’s surface.
As you might expect in a place that displays technology good enough to send people to other planets – the displays are fun and interactive. During a radio interview – I could hear (and feel) the sound of an exhibit that displays the incredible blast that gets these rockets off the ground.
The US Space & Rocket Center’s Media Manager, Tim Hall can barely contain his grin as he talks about how proud he is of the center and how many young people get to learn here each day. “These kids may not grow up to be astronauts – but they may be inspired during their visit to be a scientist, doctor or choose a path that has a positive impact on someones life.”
Among some of the more interesting pieces of NASA history on display is the Apollo 16 Command Module, an Apollo 12 moon rock and a vehicle that transported astronauts, including Neil Armstrong after they returned to Earth – not sure if they had been “contaminated”. The vehicle is called the MQF – Mobile Quarantine Facility. Somehow – this piece of NASA history wound up with the Alabama Department of Conservation for Fish and Game. It was actually ‘hanging out’ at a Fish Hatchery and college students were working out of it. It’s now back where it belongs after all those years.
For an up close look at NASA in action – a bus tour is available for an additional fee to view the Marshall Space Flight Center down the road. (Ahem. Just don’t have any outstanding warrants – according to the center’s website.)
And for fun – a video of yours truly in one of the NASA simulators spinning around like an astronaut in training:
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