After months of living like it was in the vacuum of space, Space Center Houston finally reopened to the public on July 19, inviting members and guests to finally see its newest exhibits.
The official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center was shuttered along with most of the country on March 14, just two days after cutting the ribbon on the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster on display next to the space shuttle Independence mock-up atop the shuttle carrier aircraft.
Visitors to the space center will find procedures not unlike the clean room environments used for preparing sensitive equipment for a journey to space. First, they have timed entry, so all tickets must be purchased online and for a specific time. Upon arrival, each guest’s temperature is taken, and they are asked to rub sanitizer on their hands. Second, visitors must wear a face covering and they must practice a safe orbit (social distancing) from other guests.
Third, the center has hand sanitizer stations everywhere and lots of reminders to use them. Lastly, not everything is open. The theaters and most of the frequently touched exhibits are closed. For now, the tram tour only goes to Rocket Park. The Mission Control Center and the training facility are off-limits. At Rocket Park, half of the giant Saturn rocket inside is cordoned off and tours are guided by staff. The tram tour is also timed, and free tickets can be obtained on the Space Center Houston app.
Despite the limitations, a visit to the space center still provides visitors with new exhibits and old favorites.
The Falcon 9 booster will be displayed horizontally, allowing guests to walk underneath the flown rocket. It has a 156.5-foot (47.7 m) long frame with a stage diameter of 12 feet (3.7 m) and houses nine first-stage engines. It’s one of only two SpaceX Falcon 9 boosters currently on display in the world and the first commercial space exhibit for Space Center Houston.
Inside the center there is a special display about the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. There are objects in the exhibit that have not been shown to the public before.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.spacecenter.org.