Space Center Houston (NASA) Tour and More

On January 23, 2016, Space Center Houston (SCH) opened its newest major activity:  the space shuttle mockup, renamed Independence (formerly known as Explorer), and the Boeing 747 on which it rides piggyback at Independence Plaza.  The shuttle arrived on June 1, 2012.  The 747 arrived on April 30, 2014.  Tourists can enter these structures, watch short documentaries in them, see artifacts and equipment, and read informational that are fascinating to learn more about the space program.

The tours are 8 hours or 8.5 hours for Level 9 tours.  To have enough time to see and experience all of the major events at SCH, one needs at least 6.5 hours, not counting transportation time.  From downtown Houston allow:

  • 30 minutes transport time from downtown to Space Center Houston.
  • 1 to 2 hours for the tram ride that either has 2 or 3 stops including one to Rocket Park to see Saturn V and Mercury rockets.  The Saturn V is as big as a football field – it is HUGE!
  • 18 minutes approximately to watch the documentary “On Human Destiny” that traces the history of NASA from 1961 when Alan Shepherd became the first US astronaut in space for about 15 minutes to 2011 when the International Space Station (ISS) was completed.  You can see the lectern from where President John Kennedy on September 12, 1962 at Rice University stated, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. . . .”
  • 30 to 45 minutes to tour the Starship Gallery museum with a docent to give you narrative histories where one can also touch a moon rock and see actual Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules, an Explorer rocket, an early space shuttle ejection seat, a mockup of the Apollo-Soyuz docking, a lunar rover, and a mockup of the first liquid fuel rocket from 1926, as well as walk through a mockup of Skylab.
  • 20 minutes approximately for a SCH spokesperson to reveal and talk about ongoing projects at NASA.
  • 45 minutes to watch one of the IMAX films that SCH shows on a six-story high screen.  SCH alternates movies. 
  • 35 minutes for lunch at the food court at the Zero-G Diner at Space Center Houston.
  • 20 minutes for two or three bathroom breaks.  Don’t laugh at this.  Each stop is time-consuming.
  • 15 to 45 minutes waiting in queues and for movies to begin and walking from one activity to another.
  • 25 minutes on most Fridays to hear an astronaut talk about his/her experiences in space.
  • 7 to 12 minutes to see astronauts’ spacesuits and photos of each and every mission in NASA history.
  • 60 minutes to go through the 2 levels of the space shuttle and 1 level of the 747 that was used to transport the shuttle from either California or Arizona to Florida, at Independence Plaza.
  • 15 to 20 minutes for a demonstration of life on a space shuttle called “Living in Space.”
  • 15 to 20 minutes towards the end of the tour for gift and souvenir shopping at Space Trader.
  • 45 minutes to return during rush hour on Monday through Friday from SCH to downtown Houston.  Construction is virtually perpetual and sometimes seven days a week on the I-45 highway between downtown Houston and Space Center Houston.  On weekends, one also has to contend with returning traffic from Galveston that is further south on the same highway

Many people like to add a trip to the Kemah Boardwalk if they have a whole day and evening to have drinks or dinner at one of over one-half dozen restaurants overlooking Galveston Bay.  It also has an amusement park for children.  This is a fun place to go.

We normally stop for lunch between 1:30 and 2:15 PM; however, we can modify this.  We try to schedule a late lunch so that:

  1. You can avoid the lines and wasted time between the lunch rush hours of 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
  2. We can try to fit in the tram ride, a speaker, and perhaps an IMAX movie before one becomes tired after eating and wants to take a nap in the afternoon.

If you want to spend less time at Space Center Houston (SCH), you will have to sacrifice seeing or experiencing various activities, displays, and presentations.  When will you be here again?

Transport is only the transportation from and to hotels or locations to Space Center Houston (SCH) with pickup between 9:15 and 9:30 AM to arrive at SCH between 9:50 and 10:10 AM, provided no traffic problems exist.  Pickup at SCH is outside the main entrance to the building at the same site where the party was dropped off and is between 4:15 and 4:30 PM to return to the original site of the morning pickup between 4:50 and 5:15 PM.  Because of rush-hour traffic, the return trip takes longer.  A transport will save you money compared to a tour.

WeightlessSpace Center Houston’s (SCH) hours are inconsistent.  It is always open from at least 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  We aim to arrive at SCH as soon as it opens at 10:00 AM.  On some days, it opens at 9:00 AM and may stay open late to 6:00 or 7:00 PM.  However, these additional hours are unpredictable.

The Level 9 Tour is an exclusive behind the scene tour that is only offered on Monday through Friday, but not on weekends.  Space Center Houston only takes 12 people a day on these tours.  The minimum age is 14.  The tour includes lunch.  However, it does not include any of the movies (the IMAX film and “On Human Destiny”), the Starship Gallery museum and its exhibits, touching a moon rock, walking through the Skylab mockup, or seeing the “Living in Space” presentation.  You have a trade-off if you select the Level 9 Tour instead of a regular tour.

The Level 9 Tour should be scheduled between 1 and 3 months in advance.  We need to receive a non-refundable deposit in advance before we purchase tickets for clients.  The tickets are only good for the date purchased.  Tickets are made available no more than 3 months in advance.  Pickup in the morning is between 9:30 and 9:45 AM so that we arrive at SCH by 10:05 and 10:20 AM.  The Level 9 tour at SCH begins at 10:45 AM.  Thus, we will have you at SCH at least 25 minutes before a tour begins.  The tour is between 5 and 6 hours.  Pickup in the evening is between 4:45 and 5:00 PM.  We should arrive back at any downtown hotel between approximately 5:30 and 6:00 PM.

Space Center Houston is 27.3 miles/43.9 kilometers from City Hall at 901 Bagby Street, in downtown Houston 77002.  It is 54.6 miles/87.9 kilometers roundtrip.  Allow 30 minutes to drive there and 45 – 60 minutes to return in rush hour traffic.

The drive from SCH to the Kemah Boardwalk is 7.3 miles/11.8 kilometers.  Allow 15 to 20 minutes for the trip.

The Kemah Boardwalk in Kemah, Texas is 34.2 miles/55.0 kilometers from City Hall in downtown Houston or 68.4 miles/110.1 kilometers roundtrip.  Allow at least 1 hour to return to Houston during rush hour traffic.

Rocket ParkFor prices of these tours, click here. Note that you will require the free Adobe Reader in order to read these pricing documents. You can download the latest version of this software by clicking this link.