Monday 21 October 2019

America's top space-age attractions, 50 years since the moon landing

Celebrate the Apollo 11 anniversary at these stateside visitor centres and museums, says Sarah Marshall

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the US flag (Neil Armstrong/Nasa/PA)
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the US flag (Neil Armstrong/Nasa/PA)
John Glenn Astronomy Park. PA Photo/Hocking Hills Tourism.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. PA Photo/Kennedy Space Center.
Apollo Mission Control Center at Nasa Johnson Space Center. PA Photo/Visit USA.
A Mars Rover from NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. PA Photo/iStock.
Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. PA Photo/PA Images.

Sarah Marshall

Throughout history, explorers have made great discoveries, venturing into uncharted waters and traversing unknown lands.

But easily the greatest conquest was the moment Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin laid humankind's first lunar footprint on 1969's Apollo 11 mission to the moon - an achievement replicated by only 10 astronauts ever since.

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of that world-changing moment, and astro attractions across the US are preparing to celebrate.

While space tourism is coming - for most of us it's still a way off. If you do fancy a jaunt through our solar system, here are a few of the places where rocket travel isn't required.

1. Kennedy Space Center

Where: Merritt Island, Florida

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The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. PA Photo/Kennedy Space Center.

It all started here at the launch pad which gave Apollo 11 lift off. Today, the visitor complex hosts several attractions, making it an essential stop for any space enthusiast. Recreate those first steps on the moon through augmented reality stations in a new MoonScape exhibit and watch iconic footage of the actual landing projected onto a suspended Saturn V moon rocket. Walk through a Rocket Garden where replica rockets tower like trees and ask astronauts about their lives in the Astronaut Encounter exhibit. Visit kennedyspacecenter.com; tickets from $52.

2. Apollo Mission Control Center

Where: NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

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Apollo Mission Control Center at Nasa Johnson Space Center. PA Photo/Visit USA.

All NASA's human spaceflight missions were forged and finessed at this site, known as Mission Control, which has been restored as a visitor centre in time for the anniversary of the moon landing. At the Space Center, the Astronaut Gallery displays space suits from the decades, while in the Starship Gallery, visitors can see an Apollo 17 Command Module, a Skylab Training Module and even touch a moon rock. Visit spacecenter.org; tickets from $29.95.

3. NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Where: Pasadena, California

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A Mars Rover from NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. PA Photo/iStock.

Regarded as the birthplace of science exploration, Pasadena, in Los Angeles county, is home to the NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The vast space offers the public a rare and close-up look at the institution's ongoing efforts to explore and uncover the world we exist in. A free 2.5-hour public tour showcases artefacts relating to the first moon landing and Mars rover, and there's also a programme of presentations and lectures. This is NASA's main centre for robotic exploration of the solar system. Visit jpl.nasa.gov; tours run on Mondays or Wednesdays at 1pm.

4. John Glenn Astronomy Park

Where: Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

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John Glenn Astronomy Park. PA Photo/Hocking Hills Tourism.

Thanks to its lack of light pollution and clear night sky views, Hocking Hills, a park in southeastern Ohio, has been popular with astronomers for decades. At the new John Glenn Astronomy Park - named after the first NASA astronaut to orbit the earth - visitors can catch a glimpse of the sun through the Astronomy Park's telescope (with special filters). At night, a 28-inch telescope is used in the roll-off roof observatory to view star clusters, the moon, planets and galaxies. Programmes run on various dates throughout summer. Visit jgap.info.

For more information, go to VisitTheUSA.co.uk.

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