The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is the largest space museum in the world, and has a large and varied array of attractions- from displays to rides to interactive activities, the museum houses and impressive collection of space memorabilia.
The inside of the museum is mainly dedicated to space travel history and education, with collections of historical space artifacts and even the remains of creatures who have travelled in space. There is a small display of a preserved spider- a spider who was one of the first space travellers from the Earth. One of the first monkeys, Miss Baker, was displayed in a cage at the museum for years, but she has passed away and has a grave marker in from of the musuem.
Some of the larger displays include space capsules that you can climb into and push buttons, as well as a small flight simulator that rises into the air as it is about to be ‘launched.’ Kids enjoy the intereactives such as these and the many activities that teach about the science behind space travel. There are scales tht show how much a person would weigh on the moon and on different planets, and lots of touch screens for self-directed learning.
A large moon buggy attracts a lot of attention- it is one of the original moon buggies designed to go to the moon. This one did not make it on board the rocket, but it is a substantial display item. There is also a large collection of space suits that were worn in space, as well as moon rockets gathered during Apollo missions. A newere exhibit is a life-sized walk through of MIR, the Russian space station.
Outside lies the famous Rocket Park- a final resting place for many of the most famous rockets ever to have flown. If you have not been to the museum for year, you will remember the massive Saturn V as the large segmented rocket lying on the ground. The Saturn V, larger than a 30-story building, has since been reassembled and errected in rocket park. The web cam on this rocket can be found at http://www.spacecamp.com/saturnv/. To stand under the Saturn V is to see in person the emmense scale of the spacecraft that have been launched, and to imagine the iimense power that it takes to launch one.
Rocket Park also boasts rides for all age groups, from a miniature park for younger kids, with a small, low speed ride and a climbing area, to the larger, faster and scarier rides for older children to adults. The Space Shot, which simulates what it would feel like to be launched into space. It shoots 140 feet in the air in less than three seconds, giving the riders a few seconds of weightlessness before it free falls back to the ground. The G-Force Accelerator whizzes riders around and around, until the speed actually causes riders to life out of their seats. One tip for this ride- the speed does not negatively affect you unless you turn your head. You are urged not to move your head at all during the ride, and from experience, this is good advice.
Rocket Park also includes a small area designed to look like the surface of the moon. The white powder and small rocks against this stark mini-landscape has made it a famous spot for movie making. Many films have shot their space exploration scenes there on the simulated moonscape.
There is an IMAX theater attached to the main museum, and the regular museum ticket includes a ticket for the IMAX theater. What the museum will not tell you is that you can opt for a ticket for the museum only, without the IMAX portion, for a lower ticket price. This option is not listed on the menu board- you have to ask for it.
Also a part of the Center is the world famous Space Camp. Many celebrity kids, including Chelsea Clinton and both Olson twins, have attended space camp. This is a rigorous camp full of science and learning. The campers sleep in simulated space modules, and conduct experiments during the day. They also ‘train’ on the same training equipment that the real astronauts come to Huntsville to train on.
The museum is a part of the Marshall Space Flight Center, a large and influential NASA center, and the one directly involved in most space endeavors, including both U.S. space explorations and the International Space Station. So, the museum is not just a static attraction, it is a part of the real workings of NASA, constantly updated as Marshall continues to improve the technologies that take us into space.