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Houston Day Trip- 3 Day Trips from Austin - Day 3

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  5. Austin TX Day 3 – Houston Day Trip: NASA Johnson Space Center

Blast Off to NASA’s Johnson Space Center from Austin!

Day 3 of 3 Amazing Day Trips from Austin: The Houston Day Trip.
Buckle up for a cosmic adventure as we journeyed to the heart of the American space program, the legendary Johnson Space Center at NASA!

Our jobs at Condor Airlines fueled our shared love for airplanes and space crafts. So, while exploring Austin, we took a stellar day trip to Houston! 

This epic day trip was the perfect launchpad for geeking out over everything space exploration. We wandered the Starship Gallery, marveled at the awe-inspiring Saturn V rocket, and even got a glimpse into the future of space travel at Mission Control.

It was a day trip that truly launched us to the moon and back (figuratively, of course!), creating memories that will last a lifetime.


We can’t quite recall the exact highway we blasted off on, but fear not, fellow space enthusiasts! Reaching the Johnson Space Center is a smooth ride.

There are multiple routes you can choose from to rendezvous with this legendary space hub.

Need a map to plot your course? We’ve got you covered, and recommend this one: TEXAS STATE MAP 

Or check out the online map / click HERE for detailed driving instructions that’ll land you there in about 3.5 hours. 

While Katja and I navigated like seasoned astronauts on our trip, having a backup plan is always wise.

Driving time : about 3h 30m


Original NASA 905 Shuttle Independence Carrier Aircraft

Our Houston Day Trip kicked off at the awe-inspiring Independence Plaza, presented by Boeing.

A must-see for any space enthusiast, Independence Plaza boasts the mighty shuttle replica, Independence, perched atop the historic NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. It’s a sight that ignites the imagination, a true testament to human innovation and the power of space exploration.




Independence Plaza presented by Boeing is an “international landmark”. At this moment it is the only shuttle mounted on an SCA that the public can go inside.
We decided to save the best for last and check out this amazing aircraft out after finishing the inside tour.


Timed admission tickets can be bought online, and be sure to check out all (very interesting!) options.
(i.e. the Space Expert, Breakfast with an Astronaut and the Galaxy Light Tour)

Parking fee : 5$
(please check website as prices and tours might have changed)

# Starship Galaxy

After going inside the building we immediately got an up-close look at some of the most amazing artifacts of human space exploration.

We didn’t take photos of everything, but the list is pretty impressive. 
A few examples of the spacecrafts here:

The Apollo 17 Command Module
A full-size Skylab Training module
A Moon rock you can touch
Faith 7, the final Mercury spacecraft to go into orbit
The Curiosity Rover that landed on Mars 
The Gemini V
The Lunar Roving Vehicle Trainer
Lunar Module LTA-8

# TRAM TOUR to the Mission Control Center, Rocket Park and Astronaut Training Facility

Next stop? A tram tour for a thrilling behind-the-scenes look at the heart of human space exploration at NASA Houston!

First up on the itinerary: the legendary Rocket Park Tour. This is where things got truly epic. Our absolute highlight? The Saturn V rocket, standing (or should I say lying) tall and proud. This colossal machine, the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever flown, was the workhorse of the Apollo program, sending brave astronauts on their historic journeys to the moon. As if that wasn’t enough to make you gasp, it’s also one of only three remaining Saturn V rockets on display in the entire world!


The Saturn V rocket is 363 feet tall and the Apollo 4 mission in 1967 was its first un-crewed takeoff. When it’s fueled and ready for launch, the rocket weighs about 6.2 million pounds (2.8 million kg).

Between 1967 and 1973 the rocket launched 26 astronauts into space with six successful missions landing men on the Moon. And Saturn V also launched Skylab, America’s first space station, into orbit in its final mission.

Memorial Grove of trees planted in memory of fallen astronauts and mission control personnel NASA Space Center Houston Day trip Austin

# Remembering those NASA lost

Before we went inside again to the Astronauts Training Facility and the Mission Control Center, we drove by the Memorial Grove of trees planted in memory of fallen astronauts and mission control personnel.

NASA remembers all of these brave souls every year as part of their Day of Remembrance.


“It felt like we were somewhere else all of a sudden,
away from the modern space technologies,
at this quiet and peaceful memorial park.”



# Tour schedules and details

The NASA Tram Tour was included in our admission to Space Center Houston.

A NASA Tram Tour boarding pass is now required to take the NASA Tram Tour. There are two options to get a free boarding pass.
1) Download the free Space Center Houston app, tap the “Join tram virtual line” button and select the tour you want to take
2) Visit the Guest Services Desk at the entrance to Space Center Houston, and a crewmember will reserve your boarding pass.

Click here for more information


The Rocket Park wasn’t the only highlight of our exhilarating tram tour at NASA Houston. Buckle up, space voyagers, because next on the agenda was a visit to the legendary Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center!  # MISSION CONTROL CENTER TOUR. 

This iconic room is where history was made – the very place from which NASA masterminded the Gemini and Apollo missions, including the history-making first lunar landing and even early space shuttle missions.

Stepping inside Mission Control was an incredible experience. The sheer volume of equipment and the palpable sense of history sent shivers down our spines. Pictures simply cannot capture the feeling of standing in the room where humanity took its giant leap onto the moon.

It was a truly unforgettable moment on our Houston Day Trip!

Mission Control Center Johnson Space Center NASA Houston Texas Day Trip Austin
Johnson Space Center NASA Houston Texas Day Trip Austin Apollo Airplanes Mission Control Center
Johnson Space Center NASA Houston Texas Day Trip Austin Apollo Airplanes Mission Control Center


Our exhilarating tram tour at NASA Houston continued its cosmic journey, transporting us to the awe-inspiring Astronaut Training Facility. Here, we embarked on a fascinating walk along an elevated path through the heart of the action – the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility in Building 9  This is the very place where the future of space exploration unfolds as NASA astronauts train for their current missions, honing their skills in preparation for daring adventures beyond our atmosphere.

But wait, there’s more! Building 9 is also a hotbed of innovation, where brilliant scientists and engineers are developing the next generation of space exploration vehicles. We got a glimpse of the future as we spotted several International Space Station modules – crucial training tools that help astronauts become intimately familiar with the station before embarking on their missions.

The cherry on top? We even witnessed history in the making! As we explored Building 9, we encountered the Orion spacecraft, NASA’s revolutionary crewed space vehicle. Astronauts were putting it through its paces, evaluating and testing its capabilities, while engineers meticulously finalized its design. Witnessing this firsthand was a truly unforgettable moment on our Houston Day Trip, a glimpse into the future of human space exploration.

# What did we like most?

That is a difficult question, because each area in the Astronaut Trainings Facility was pretty awesome, but..

The Valkyrie (on the last pictures) is always the first thing I remember about the Astronaut Trainings Facility Tour.

Valkyrie is one of the robotics projects, NASA’s next generation of humanoid robot also known as R5. 

R5 features: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/r5/

#Did you know..?

Did you know can actually follow Valkyrie online? 
We think this is pretty cool and this is your change to meet Valkyrie:

Valkyrie on Twitter
Valkyrie on Youtube
Valkyrie on Instagram

# NASA Houston Day Trip: Inside the Shuttle Replica Independence

Johnson Space Center NASA Houston Texas Day Trip Austin Apollo Airplanes

Saving the best for last on our thrilling tram tour at NASA Houston was the mighty Shuttle Replica Independence!

Stepping inside this meticulously crafted replica, even though it wasn’t the real deal, was an experience we won’t soon forget. 

But the excitement continued! Right next door (or should I say “under”) stood another incredible feat of human ingenuity – the historic and original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. This behemoth, responsible for a whopping 223 space shuttle missions and accumulating over 11,000 flight hours over four decades, is a true testament to the incredible engineering that makes space travel possible.

# Nice to know

The Space Shuttle Independence, is a full-scale, high-fidelity replica of the Space Shuttle and the NASA 905 carried space shuttles 223 times and amassed 11,017 flight hours over 42 years. 

By the end of our epic Houston Day Trip to NASA, let’s just say we were fueled by pure space-age wonder – but also pleasantly worn out! The drive back to Austin was definitely a chance to recharge after a day packed with exploration.

But trust us, every mile was worth it. From the mind-blowing exhibits to the iconic landmarks like the Saturn V and the Shuttle Replica Independence, this trip was a true blast (figuratively, of course!). We hope you enjoyed journeying alongside us through the wonders of NASA Houston. Stay tuned for more exciting day trips and outdoor adventures – we’ll be back soon to share them with you!

# Book Recommendations

# NASA Houston Day Trip Memories


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