11 JAN 2019: Where were you on July 20, 1969? The late Neil Armstrong would surely have remembered: he just happened to be taking “one small step” on the moon – at 10:56 p.m. EDT, onto the Sea of Tranquility, to be precise.

Fifty years on, mankind’s first steps anywhere other than this planet are being celebrated with ongoing Lunar Jubilee events at the epicentre of the US space program – NASA – culminating in special celebrations at Space Center Houston on July 20, the anniversary day of Armstrong and colleague Buzz Aldrin’s historic moonwalk.

And visitors from around the world can participate.

“We invite people around the world to join us as we celebrate how the Apollo era paved the way for the future of space exploration,” says SCH president and CEO William T. Harris. “Our special programming and exhibits will enable visitors to get an up-close look at the legacy of the Apollo program and relive the excitement of the space race…”

Highlights of the 10-month celebration, which began at HSC in October, include a special Thought Leaders Series featuring Apollo legends, special exhibits, education activities, space films and a space art show.

Visitors to the science and space exploration learning centre will also be able to experience the Center’s extensive collection of significant Apollo artifacts under one roof, including the command module from the Apollo 17 mission, the world’s largest collection of moon rocks on public display (one of which can be touched), as well as a spacesuit collection featuring commander Pete Conrad’s spacesuit worn during his Apollo 12 lunar walk, with moon dust still on it.

Additionally, the documentary “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo,” explores how NASA’s Historic Mission Control helped change the course of history, while focusing on the people behind the scenes who helped put humans on the moon and bring them back to earth safely.

Festivities will culminate on July 20 with a family-friendly 50th anniversary celebration of the arrival of the Apollo 11 mission on the moon and a countdown to Armstrong first steps.

“The entire city [of Houston] will be celebrating,” says Meridyth Moore of Space Center Houston, who points out that the 60th anniversary of NASA itself is being similarly recognized this year.

Of course, visitors, whether attending during Jubilee celebrations or at other times, will find plenty to do at HSC, which acts as the official visitor centre of the NASA Johnson Space Centre. Houston’s top tourist attraction hosts more than million people a year (and 20 million since opening in 1992).

Among the Center’s far-out activities for guests include getting up close and personal with multiple flown spacecraft, walking through a space shuttle replica mounted on top of the historic shuttle carrier aircraft NASA 905; touching a rock from Mars; touring the NASA Johnson Space Center (a working facility); marvelling at a massive Saturn V rocket (and other space craft) at Rocket Park; wandering through mock-ups of the International Space Station astronauts use to train; taking in films and live presentations; and lingering over more than 400 authentic space program artifacts.

“And there’s always something coming up and we’re adding new things,” says Moore.

Guests can also enhance their visit with VIP and behind-the-scenes tours, and even have lunch with an astronaut.

Of course, some activities require advance planning and may only be available with a membership (available online), and Moore suggests it’s also a good idea to book the popular tram tour ahead, either online or onsite at a kiosk.

“NASA is planning a Mars voyage in the 2030s, perhaps another moon landing, there are new satellites, says Moore. “It’s an exciting time in space travel!”

The Houston Space Centre is located approximately 45 minutes from downtown Houston and requires nearly a full day to do it justice. Admission prices are $29.95, $24.95 and $27.95 respectively for adults, kids (4-11) and seniors (65+) and entry is included with the Houston CityPASS.

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Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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