Guest Author - Nick Greene
OK, you've heard of Cape Kennedy in Florida and probably the Johnson Space Center in Texas, but what does Alabama have to do with the space program?
To answer that, you have to go back to the 1950s when the space age was in its infancy. A team of scientists in Huntsville worked on designs for rockets to place satellites in space and eventually humans on the moon. As security and secrecy loosened on the program and public interest expanded, NASA opened its very first visitors center at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in 1970. Today, the Center, a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, has the greatest collection of rockets and space memorabilia anywhere. You can visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for a day for lots of hand-on adventure or attend one of the wildly popular programs like Aviation Challenge and Space Camp.
Somewhere between a museum and an amusement park, you'll find some of the most awesome space rides on the planet at the Center. What does a rocket launch really feel like? Five, four, three, two, one, liftoff! Shoot 140 feet straight up in 2.5 seconds and experience 4 G's of force followed by 2 - 3 seconds of weightlessness and 1G free fall on Space Shot. Take a ride within a ride on Mars Mission as your craft hovers over Alpha Base and the rough terrain of the Red Planet. You can also sit inside an Apollo cockpit trainer, practice your skills with a robotic arm and learn more about the U.S. Air Force Spy plane the Blackbird. Did you know that it flew coast to coast in less than 68 minutes?
Other exhibits show Huntsville's role in the development of the United States' first missile and space programs. You can also interact with a Lunar Lander, G-Force Accelerator, the Kids Cosmos Energy Depletion Zone and the IMAX Theater. From toddlers to retirees, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center has something for you.
You can find out more about the longer term offerings by visiting the websites of Space Camp (http://www.spacecamp.com) and Aviation Challenge (http://www.aviationchallenge.com).
For a day visit, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is open from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM year round. except for these holidays: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Admission and activity prices may change. For updated information and directions, visit the website: http://www.ussrc.com/.