News Center

Space Center Houston to Celebrate 25th Anniversary Galaxy Gala


A star-studded event awaits on March 31, as Space Center Houston celebrates its monumental 25th anniversary with the Galaxy Gala, led by chairs Keith and Alice Mosing and Kim and Dan Tutcher.

Proceeds will support the nonprofit center’s extensive educational programs serving youth from around the world with exceptional science learning experiences. The center is owned and operated by the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization.


Juno’s flybys a breeze

It’s been more than eight months since Juno roared into Jupiter’s orbit. Since then, the NASA spacecraft has been making all manner of scientific measurements of the giant’s atmosphere. It’s also been taking some breathtaking close-ups of the magnificent planet.

So far, revelations include that Jupiter’s magnetic fields and aurora are bigger and more powerful than originally thought and that the belts and zones that create the gas giant’s distinctive look extend deep into the planet’s interior. Peer-reviewed papers with more in-depth science results from Juno’s first three flybys are expected to be published within the next few months.

While we wait on the science, we can revel in the high-quality images Juno already has sent back.

Here is one of pearl-colored, swirling cloud tops.


Here is one of the great red spot, thought to be a massive hurricane-type storm.


Here is one of a “Jupiter-rise”


Want to decide what should be photographed on Juno’s next flyby on March 27? The Jet Propulsion Laboratory set up an online poll here just for that. Vote on what features Juno should capture on that flyby.

Until then, enjoy the angry gas giant.

Space Center Houston’s Cosmic Spring Break Lineup Offers Incredible Experience


Touch a rare Mars meteorite, see where astronauts train, engineer a robot or have lunch with an astronaut during Space Center Houston’s Cosmic Spring Break, presented by the city of Webster March 11-19.

“Make it your mission to plan an action-packed Cosmic Spring Break experience you’ll never forget,” said the center’s President and CEO William T. Harris. “Climb inside an Orion simulated capsule, maneuver hands-on activities in the new spring exhibit and board our ultimate VIP Level 9 Tour to see the Historic Apollo Mission Control Room.”


Space Center Houston’s New Exhibit Math Moves! Builds Learning Power


Exponentially grow your math power in Space Center Houston’s all-new spring exhibit Math Moves! Feb. 25-April 23. The hands-on experience is spring training for the mind.

“Our spring exhibit is highly interactive and full of exciting experiments and engaging math challenges,” said the center’s President and CEO William T. Harris. “It encourages people of all ages to explore and have fun with math, while gaining a deeper understanding of fundamental principles.”


An Epic Lunar Experience Lands at Space Center Houston


Space Center Houston is the first of four stops of a new exhibit featuring the Apollo 11 command module, which will leave the Smithsonian on a national tour for the first time since 1971. It will be the only location where guests can see the space capsules for both the first and last lunar landings.

The awe-inspiring “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission” exhibit, on display Oct. 14-March 18, 2018 at Space Center Houston, is part of the nonprofit’s 25th anniversary jubilee. The center is the first and only Smithsonian Affiliate in greater Houston.


Space Center Houston Honors Exceptional Educator


Space Center Houston honored an exceptional science teacher with the prestigious Cherri Brinley Outstanding Educator Award for her significant achievements in space science education.

Jodie Guillen of Edgewood, New Mexico, received the award during the 23rd Space Exploration Educators Conference. More than 500 educators participated in the interactive workshops led by scientists, engineers and astronauts and took home engaging classroom techniques for all grade levels.


Lucy and Psyche headline NASA’s new Discovery missions

Last month, NASA announced its next two planetary science missions as part of its Discovery program. These two missions, Lucy and Psyche, will visit eight asteroids between 2025 and 2033.

Their overall mission, however, is to get to the roots of our solar system itself. By studying the protean worlds of asteroids, NASA hopes to understand how our own world came to be and the forces that shaped the other planets orbiting our sun.

Lucy will launch in 2021, check in on an object in the main asteroid belt before visiting six more “Trojan” asteroids. These last six are asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit and are held in place by the gas giant’s gravity.

On a conference call announcing the missions, Lucy principal investigator Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, explained how his probe will investigate how our solar system began.

“These (Trojan asteroids) really are the fossils of planet formation,” Levison said.

Meanwhile, Psyche will head to a metallic asteroid world named Psyche. This celestial body orbits between Mars and Jupiter, but has some very exciting scientific properties. For one, it’s made of the same stuff as Earth’s core: metallic iron and nickel. It also may have solid metal jutting off its surface.

Scientists are interested in learning more about the makeup of this asteroid to determine if it’s the remnants of a larger planet’s exposed inner core.

Psyche’s mission is headed by a science team at Arizona State University.

Both of these missions came from a competitive planetary science program and are considered some of the lowest-cost missions NASA will execute. These two missions were chosen from an initial field of 27, which was pared to five last year.

Explorer 1 put NASA into the Space Race

One basketball-sized streak across the skies in 1957 set in motion the Space Race. America’s returning shot to both Sputnik missions was a satellite of its own.

Space Center Houston has a full-scale replica of Explorer 1, the first American satellite sent into orbit, in its Starship Gallery. While the Space Age began with the Soviet Union’s Sputnik I launch on Oct. 4, 1957, Explorer 1’s launch on Jan. 31, 1958, marked the beginning of space exploration for the United States. It was a boost for America as it competed with the Soviet Union over the conquest of space.

Explorer 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral near Kennedy Space Center by a rocket which was designed by German-born rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. Though scientists learned from Sputnik’s orbits, Explorer 1 made the first scientific discovery from space.

Designed to study cosmic rays, it detected areas of intense radiation around the Earth using a device created by scientist James Van Allen. These radiation areas trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field became known as the Van Allen belts.

Explorer sits in a vaunted place in the history of the American space program. Von Braun’s rocket design and development were integral in the sudden growth of the space program and culminated with the Saturn series of rockets that launched the Apollo missions to the Moon.


Space Center Houston Creates Spectacular New Mars Exhibit

Awaken the red planet inside the spectacular new Mission Mars exhibit. It’s an immersive experience, which offers an opportunity to peer inside an Orion spacecraft research model, stand close to a giant model rocket and walk on a virtual Mars environment.

The multi-million-dollar interactive exhibit, designed with input from NASA experts, opens as the nonprofit also kicks off its 25th anniversary year.


Astronaut Gene Cernan dies at 82

Celebrate Cernan’s memory in Starship Gallery

  • Discover the Apollo 17 Command Module in which Cernan traveled to the moon in 1972.
  • See a recreation of Cernan excavating rock and soil samples from the moon during the Apollo 17 mission on the Lunar Landscape.
  • Touch a moon rock and see other moon rocks and soil in our Lunar Vault. Apollo 17 brought back the most lunar samples of all missions.

The last man to stand on the moon died Monday.

“Retired Navy Captain Gene Cernan not only left his footprints on the moon, but in our hearts,” said President and CEO William T. Harris of Space Center Houston. “He will forever be remembered as an inspiration to us all and a strong advocate for Space Center Houston’s educational mission. He helped launch the pathway for future explorers to discover unlimited opportunities.”

The legacy of the last man on the moon lives on at Space Center Houston as generations of people are inspired to explore by hearing his story and seeing the Apollo 17 capsule used on the last mission to the moon. Cernan always was willing to lend his support to the center, Harris said. The astronaut was honored at the center’s fundraising luncheon “Mission to Mars” in 2016 and appeared on a panel at its first Galaxy Gala in 2015.

“Gene will be remembered for his incredible spirit and passion, and his willingness to help others achieve their dreams,” said Fred Griffin, chairman of the board of directors of the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation.

Cernan served as a pilot in the Navy, had a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering and flew into space three times. He also earned two NASA Distinguished Service medals, two Navy Distinguished Service medals and the Navy’s Distinguished Flying Cross.

During his first trip into orbit aboard Gemini 9, Cernan became the second American to take a spacewalk. Cernan also descended towards the moon in the lunar lander during the Apollo 10 mission but did not land. As such, he’s the only person to have made two different lunar descents.

Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17, leading Harrison Schmidt down to the lunar surface in the lander “Challenger.” Their command module, America, is on display in Space Center Houston’s Starship Gallery.

In all, the astronauts brought back 243 pounds (110 kilograms) of lunar samples and spent 75 hours on the surface of the moon.

Cernan’s final words from the moon voiced an idea he championed throughout his life: that he not be the final person to stand on that lunar soil.

Space Center Houston Sets New Annual Record


More than one million visitors streamed through the doors of Space Center Houston in 2016, marking it as the best-ever year for the nonprofit. The record-breaking one-million milestone came last month, just as the center was poised to open its 25th anniversary year and unveil a new permanent exhibit before Super Bowl LI.