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Johnson Space Center(JSC) / Space Center Houston

  • Location : 1601 NASA Pkwy, Houston, Texas, USA 77058
  • Opening : Summer 09:00 - 17:00 / Winter 10:00 - 17:00 (Until 18:00 on weekends)
  • Closing : December 25
  • Admission charges : Adult $19.95($14.95), Child $15.95($10.95), Senior $18.95($13.95)(In parentheses is the online purchase price)
  • Web site : Space Center Houston https://spacecenter.org/
  • Web site : Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/home/

Restoration of Historic Mission Control Center(MCC)

Historic Mission Control Center(MCC) (Mission Operations Control Room-2 (MOCR-2) または Flight Control Room-2(FCR-2)) : Control room used in the Apollo program restoration work was completely carried out to completely return to the form of that time, for 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 of July 2019.
The CRTs installed on all consoles are replaced with liquid crystal displays to reflect data from that time. The console button also lights up. The audio loop at that time is also played back. The monitor in front of the room also displays various data when landing on Apollo 11. And each console is lined with documents, headsets, pencils, ashtrays and coffee cups that are reminiscent of those days.
The work was completed on June 28, 2019, and a ceremony and ribbon cut were held to celebrate the completion. It is from July 1st that general visitors will be able to visit here on a tram tour.

Space Center Houston


"This is Houston"
For generations who experienced Apollo project in real time, that's the word you heard many times on TV. This Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston is the center of NASA's manned space flight, not only control Apollo and Space Shuttle from after launch to land, but also have numerous training and other facilities for astronauts. Here is also a Space Center Houston, a tourist facility that adults and children can enjoy together. As we had a chance to visit this Center, we will introduce it.

Space Center Houston

A visitor center attached to NASA Johnson Space Center. It is an indoor facility, with seven attractions mainly for children's, and restaurants and shops, and "Artifact Museum", which showcases NASA's historic monuments, including Apollo 17 command module. You can learn about NASA and space with fun. It seems to be a popular museum for the locals, with so many families visiting on weekends, children's cheers are echoing.

Artifact Museum

Apollo 17 command module
This is an exhibition that you can trace history of NASA's manned space flight. The exit of “Starship Gallery”, one of the attractions, is the entrance to this exhibit. The attraction “Starship Gallery” has about 30 minutes of performance time and 7 performances a day.
A realistic diorama of the moon surface
However, if you participate in the Level 9 Tour (explained below), there is no time to enjoy this attraction. In such a case, you can enter directly from the hall without going through Starship Gallery. Actual spacecrafts of Mercury Faith 7 , Gemini 5 are displayed in space diorama. And Apollo 17 command module is also on display. At A realistic diorama of the moon surface , I was moved by the beauty of the earth seen from the moon. However, the lighting is very dark at this corner, so it is difficult to take pictures. We recommend carrying a pocket-sized tripod. The room imitating Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) , which manages and studies moon rocks, displays some of the world's largest real moon rocks, and touchable moon rock. You can also see ASTP training docking module, SkyLab training module, and Space Shuttle wind tunnel model, and so on. Even if you watch exhibits carefully, you can see the whole in about an hour.

Tram Tour

The most important attraction of Space Center Houston is this Tram Tour. It is an attraction where you can take a tram and tour the Johnson Space Center facilities. There are two courses, "Red Tour" and "Blue Tour", and the facilities visit in each are different. Red tour will visit Astronaut Traininig Facility, and Blue tour will visit Mission Control Center, and both will finally visit Rocket Park where Saturn V is on display. Both tour takes about 90 minutes. The departure time of each course is described in the brochure available at museum.
However, what I would recommend to you of NASA and Apollo Freak is to join the Level 9 Tour, which is described next.

Level 9 Tour

Space Center Houston's ultimate attraction is this Level9 Tour. Advance reservations are required to participate. Only 12 people can participate per day. NASA staff will guide you and answer all questions anytime, anywhere. This ticket also includes an admission fee for the Space Center Houston on the day of the tour and next day, and a lunch during the tour.
Tickets can be booked and purchased from the Space Center Houston website ($ 89.95). The only conditions for taking this tour are that you are 14 years or older. The tour takes place once or twice a day, from Monday to Friday, and takes 4-5 hours, almost a full day. It covers all the facilities that Tram Tour visits, and also guides you to places where you can not enter with Tram Tour.

Start of Level 9 Tour

T-38 training jet at Ellington Field
When you arrive at Space Center Houston after making reservations and payments on the website , give your name at information center on the right side of entrance. Show staff the printout of your reservation screen, and it will go smoothly. You will receive a description of meeting place, time, admission ticket, and participation certificate of tour : VIP tag. You can tour the hall freely until tour meeting time (around 10:30) comes.
This tour departs from the same place as Tram Tour. First, take a inspection of your belongings at the Tram Tour station, and take a memorial photo for each group. Of course you can buy this photo on the way back. It is a system often found in tourist spot.
And depart with exclusive van different from the Tram. Participants introduce themselves lightly in the car. Most of them were married couples, not only from North America but from all over the world such as Europe and Middle East.

Ellington Field

The van leaves Johnson Space Center from the beginning, runs on general road, and the first to go is Ellington Field. Here you will only be sightseeing from inside the car, but staff will stop the car at key points, such as in front of hanger, and will explain. Of course you are free to take pictures. This is the airfield that NASA astronauts use to move between JSC and KSC, T-38 training jet, Gulfstream II “The Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA)” used for space shuttle maneuver training, C-9 “Weightless Wonder”also known as “vomit comet” used for weightlessness training, Boeing B377SG "Super Guppy" transports Space Shuttle parts, Boeing 747-100 Jumbo Jet“Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA)” for Space Shuttle Transportation, are belongs. When we visited, we were able to see T-38, Gulfstream and Super Guppy(in the distance). Also at the entrance of base is an old “Weightless Wonder IV” on display, which can be viewed on the way back.
You can read more about aircrafts belonging to Ellington Field in NASA documentation Ellington Field Aircraft(PDF).

Sonny Carter Training Facility(SCTF)

Sonny Carter Training Facility's huge Extra‐Vehicular Activity (EVA) training pool
Van returns to JSC and then visit Sonny Carter Training Facility's huge Extra‐Vehicular Activity (EVA) training pool subsequently. The name of the facility comes from NASA astronaut Sonny Carter. This pool installed here is 40 feet deep, and size is 202 x 102 feet ( approximately 61.5m x 31m ). This include mock-up of full-size Space Shuttle payload bay, and main part of ISS, for realistic training.
The tour looks down from a tour catwalk set up beside the pool. The catwalk is equipped with a number of camera displays that capture the inside and outside of the pool, allowing you to watch training in pool close up. When we visited, it was a maintenance day, and only two divers were seen checking the facility.
You can read more about Sonny Carter Training Facility in NASA documentation Sonny Carter Training Facility - Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory(PDF).

Building 3 - Astronaut Cafeteria

And next is lunch time. Next to Building 1 where JSC's headquarters is located, we have lunch at cafeteria of Building 3, which is also used by astronauts. Each visitors are given tickets and can choose favorite menu. Well, it feels like a common American cafeteria. There is also a small shop in the cafeteria, and after meals, you can shop for NASA goods by the time the tour resumes.

Building 9NE - Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility(SVMF)

Space Station Mockup and Training Facility:SSMTF Major modules of the International Space Station
The next visit is Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility. Space Station Mockup and Training Facility:SSMTF Major modules of the International Space Station , Space Shuttle Orbiter real size mockup are lined up in a huge building. Here too, the tour looks down from the tour catwalk set up next to the mockup. At the corner of ISS, you can also see Soyuz spacecraft mockup , which is equipped to ISS for emergency escape.
Robot installed on ISS:Robonaut 2
In addition, at the corner of the Shuttle, there is a facility that trains repairs in space when insulation tiles are damaged, and Operation practice facility of Magic hand:Canada Arm.
There are also prototypes of biped robots, and devices that simulate walking under microgravity such as the moon. When we visited, by consideration of the guide, gave me a glimpse of laboratory on the first floor of this building through the window. There was a robot : Robonaut 2 carried to the ISS in shuttle flight (STS-133) in November 2010.
You can read more about Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility in NASA documentation Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility(PDF). and about Robonaut 2, Robonaut 2.

Building 30S - New Mission Control Center(MCC)

Mission Control Center and staff explaining
Then we visit Mission Control Center. It is a place that controls NASA's missions, including ISS right now. Due to the equipment maintenance, it takes a lot of cooling and it's very cold. Sit in the Viewing Areas in front of Control Center and tour through the glass. Since many people can not enter at the same time, we wait for a while in first floor hall and visit in turn.
This mission control center has three rooms, one large and two small, which used properly depending on the content of mission. A large room manages ISS: International Space Station on a 24-hour basis. On displays installed in this room, the image captured by camera mounted on ISS and datas showing position and attitude of ISS by CG are updated and displayed in real time. It feels like a room that is directly connected to the space.
Here, the staff doing mission control will do explain. They will then accept questions and answers. The staff are friendly people, and explanations will proceed in a peaceful atmosphere with jokes. While listening to the explanation, the images from ISS behind changes from day to night, and we can feel the speed of ISS moving.
NASA documentation Mission Control, Houston(PDF) describes New Mission Control Center.

Building 30N - Historic Mission Control Center(MCC)

Historic Mission Control Center
And then we move to the Historic Mission Control Center (or Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR)) where Apollo project was directed. Appeared in a number of video materials of Apollo program, familiar in the TV drama "From The Earth To The Moon", it is a real thing of that Mission Control Center. This is also a "legacy" that is recognized as the "National Historic Landmark" of the United States in 1985. Attendees of Tram Tour will tour through the glass again sitting in the Viewing Areas, Level 9 Tour participants can enter the control center floor, touch the console, or sit in the Flight director's seat to take a commemorative photo. (Currently, entry to some areas is restricted due to restoration work for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in July 2019.)
On the wall, Mission patches of Apollo program are stuck as they were at the time, Beneath that, the stars and stripes that Apollo 11 carried to the moon and brought back are on display. The excitement of the tour participants reaches a climax. Everybody takes pictures, takes questions, and makes a thought in the era of Apollo project.

Building 32 - Space Environment Simulation Lab (Vacuum Chamber)

By the time we arrived at the Historic Mission Control Center, it was already 16:00. Because there was no time, Vacuum Chamber was skipped.

Apollo Saturn V rocket

Rcoket park - Saturn V

The end of the tour is the meeting with Apollo Saturn V rocket , which has only three sets in the world.
Little Joe II
This Saturn V here was originally an outdoor exhibition, but roof was built in July 2008, the 38th year after Apollo 11's landing on the moon, and it was beautifully restored. The rockets displayed here are... Saturn V first stage made for Apollo 19: S-IC-14 , second stage made for Apollo 20: S-II-15 and third stage made for Apollo 18: S-IVB-513 . Also, outside the building, Little Joe II , used for flight tests of Apollo spacecraft, and Mercury Redstone & Saturn V's F1 engine are on display. I am surprised that Little Joe II is larger than Redstone, even though it is named "Little". However, unfortunately it was rainy day, so no visitors were looking at the outdoor exhibition.
The time given to visit Saturn V is only 10 minutes. The tour visitor enters from the side of S-IC-14 , walks inside while listening to explanation of guide, and tour is end when we reaches the top of Command Module. I ran around and took a picture without listening to the explanation of the guide. Tram Tour participants also given same short time to visit here.
When we reach the end of CM, return VIP tag to guide and back to van. Inside the car, we received astronaut's portraits of a recent shuttle mission, and so on as a souvenir. Return to Tram Tour platform, shake hands with guide, and this tour is over. By this time it was 4:30 pm.
After a quick glance at the exhibits and gift shop inside the hall, closing time will soon come. I felt I needed an additional 1-2 hours to look around enough.

How to go and where to stay

Johnson Space Center is more than an hour's drive from downtown Houston, opposite direction to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), by car. It is especially difficult for tourists from overseas to visit there. There is also a way to take part in a local guided tour, but in this case time is limited and you can not take part in the Level 9 Tour. If you use William P. Hobby Airport, it takes about 30 minutes by car to Johnson Space Center.
I stayed at WESTIN GALLERIA hotel in The Galleria largest shopping mall in the Houston, and from here I used a taxi. The taxi fare is about $ 60 each way, and it takes less than an hour. It is not cheap at all, but it is the most convenient and only option for foreign tourists who want to join Level 9 Tour without a car.
In addition, there is route bus from downtown, and fare is available for less than one third of taxi, but there are few operations, and it takes one and a half hours in one way. You can check the bus schedule and fares on the Houston METRO website.

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