Title: NASA, Space Center Houston One Day Visit
Preparation: We bought the Houston citypass from the citypass website. Two Adults and two kids costs $188, $51 per adult, $41 per kid plus the $4 processing fee, we saved 50% compared to the total of the original prices. The places you can visit with the citypass are: Houston Natural Science Museum, Space Center Houston (NASA), Downtown Aquarium, Houston Zoo or Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Children's Museum of Houston or Kemah boardwalk All-day Ride Pass. The good thing about the citypass is the big saving; the disadvantage is you only have nine consecutive days visit all these places. On the first day you visit any of these places, the days start to count down. If you do not have many vacation days, then you have two weekends at most to use the citypass. We ordered the Citypass online, when we first visited the Natural Science Museum, I had to spent about 10 minutes or so in line to get the tickets by giving them the receipt I printed out. In the security check, no outside food or drink allowed, no large luggage or coolers allowed in NASA.
General opinion: If you come to Houston or you're a Houstonian, the one place you do not want to miss is: the Space Center Houston. in this Space Center, you can see the real Saturn V rocket, the most powerful rocket ever built and operated. Its design played a major role in successfully transporting and landing American astronauts on the moon during the Apollo missions. During the tram tour, you will see how astronauts have been trained in the mock astronauts training center, the mission control center, and the descriptions for what main functionality each of the main buildings does.
Attractions and activities: The tram tour in NASA now has two different lines: red line and blue line. I asked the staff which one is more interesting, the answer is red line. RED Line has the astronaut training facility tour but the blue line has the mission control visit. Last time we have seen the mission control system room. If you have time, you can take one at a time and then do two times. The Red tour line stops at the Astronaut Mock training center and the rocket Saturn V park. The tram tour was really good, the tour guide explain what each of the buildings and the facilities does. e.g. the Quarantine building: the facility for quarantining the astronauts who come back from the space ; where is the food for astronauts has been manufactured; where the building is and how the astronauts are trained for the nearly 0 gravity situation, etc. Sometimes the waiting line for the tour maybe more than 30 or 40 minutes, it really depends when you wait in the tram line. In addition to the tour, there are also several exhibition halls that are worth to see. The Moon exploration, the International Space Station exhibition, the Skylab trainer. The Moon exploration part has lunar soil research exhibition, lunar Soil composition, lunar soil sample, and a moon rock that can be touched. There is an 18 minutes movie that briefly describes the NASA space exploration history and it's good to watch. The Saturn Rocket Park, does not only have the Saturn V Rocket, but also has the big wall posts about the history of Apollo space exploration, from Apollo 1 to Apollo 17, it's a very detailed description about each mission and the astronauts in the mission. Two things worth to mention here is: there is a knowledge test in the end of the Skylab exhibition hall. I did and my son also did the test, both of us enjoyed it. In the left front of the first floor, there are many places where the young kids can interact with. e.g. the infra image is a good one, my daughter and myself played.
Dining: NASA, Space Center Houston has three food vendors and other snack vendors but the rush hour waiting in a line will be long. if you have time, it would be better to eat something before you get in. We ate our sandwiches around noon and got in; in the late afternoon, bought some turkey club sandwiches there.
Commute: The address of Space Center Houston, NASA's Johnson Space center: 1601 NASA Road 1, Houston TX 77058 Based on the GPS and google map, we easily found the parking lot. We did encounter some slow traffic in I-45 but it was not too bad. Be prepared to have food and drink at hand, in case you're stuck in traffic for hours, you may need it any time.
Things I wish I had known before: Before you enter into the tram tour line, there is a photographer to take your family picture for you. This is only one time snapshot, when you come back from the tour, they will ask you if you want the picture or not. This time we paid about $32 for the picture. So please remind everybody of your family to look at the camera, not close the eyes when the photographer is taking the picture, otherwise you will end up paying the money for the picture but one of your family member closed the eyes in the picture.