U.S. Space and Rocket Center
- Location : One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, Alabama 35805
- Opening : 09:00-17:00
- Closing : Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Years Day
- Admission charges : US$16.95 (Child US$11.95) IMAX ticket included
- Web site : https://www.rocketcenter.com/
- Online shop web site : https://shop-rocketcenter.tamretail.net/
U.S. Space & Rocket Center is on the outskirts of Huntsville, Alabama, along with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), center of Saturn V rocket development, and Army's Redstone arsenal.
At the entrance, a reconnaissance aircraft SR-71 called Blackbird is on display. The location is 10-15 minutes by car from downtown Huntsville or from airport. In Huntsville, transportation is limited to taxis, tourist loop buses , or car rental. If you want to spend time efficiently, you may want to rent a car at the airport. Huntsville doesn't have much traffic, even in rush times.
When buying a ticket at the entrance, select IMAX movie you want to watch. You can choose from one of three movie titles currently shown. I think it is better to check the screening content on the website in advance. I chose "SpaceStation" which I wanted to see before.
Dr. Wernher Von Braun
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center is the place where Dr. Von Braun, who developed V2 missiles in Germany during war, developed Juno and Jupiter missiles for US Army after war. And based on this Jupiter missile, Saturn rocket that launched Apollo spacecraft was developed. Dr. Von Braun seems to be familiar to Huntsville people as a local hero, and event hall in downtown is named "Von Braun Center".
Here U.S. Space & Rocket Center also has many exhibits related to Dr. Von Braun. Tere is A room that recreates Dr. Von Braun's office too. One of the highlights here is its bus tour to NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. However, at that time, the bus tour was canceled under the influence of 9.11 terrorism. It is resumed now, but is limited to American citizens.
There is a facility called "Space camp" here. This is a facility where children can camp and learn about space. Especially on summer vacations there are full of children. General visitor can also peep into it. There is even a pool to experience weightlessness. It looks quite serious.
Display about Apollo project
Of course there are many exhibits about Apollo project. Many small artifacts like Display keyboard of computer (DSKY), attitude control stick of lunar module, urine processing device etc. And you can see Spacesuits , Space suit parts , The watch worn by astronauts : Omega Speedmaster Professional , Cradle and life support device used to launch chimpanzees at Mercury project, Apollo 16 Command Module : Casper , LM engine , Saturn V 1st stage (S-IC) F-1 engine and 2nd and 3rd stage (S-II, S-IVB) J2 engine , IU( Instrument Unit : Flight control device ) and so on. This IU (Instrument Unit) may not be seen elsewhere, so it may be a valuable exhibit. And of course real Saturn V booster is on display.
The rockets displayed here are... first stage (S-IC) and third stage (S-IVB) are S-IC-D, S-IVB-D made for test (dynamic test stage), then second stage (S-II) is S-II-F/D used for interference test with facilities (facility test: SA-500F), and Command Service module is CSM-010(Block1).
These are mainly produced for testing, so details are omitted quite a bit. Since it has been exposed to field for a long time, deterioration seems to be intense. Now an indoor exhibition center is constructed and Saturn V is transferred there.
Saturn V real scale mockup was made here in July 1999. It is a huge object and can be seen even from a distance. Many other rockets are on display at Rocket Park.
The museum also has many other experiential exhibits, which are especially popular with children. A space shuttle landing simulator and an attraction that investigates the sunk Titanic with submarine, free climbing on Mars volcano rock surface, this is like an amusement park. At the G-FORCE ACCELERATOR , you can experience acceleration G-force of rocket launch by riding on a rotating disc about the size of merry-go-round. This can be enjoyed by adults as well. Apollo Command Module simulator lets you experience the mood of Apollo astronaut. The dashboard is a mockup, just sit in the cockpit. You can not do the operation, but you can experience the narrowness of Apollo Command Module with yourself.
A Space Shuttle is on display on the square behind the museum leading to space camp accommodation (HABITA). This Space Shuttle is "Pathfinder" used for interference test with facilities. This was exhibited at the Space Shuttle Exhibition held in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya in 1983.
One of the pleasures of museum is choice of souvenirs at museum shop. However, many of products in this shop are rather children-friendly and unfortunately disappointing.