Our Midwest Road Trip recap is coming to a close over on Youtube, and our last day was to be spent in Alabama! We’ll have a few other awesome blog posts over the next few days, but our visit to the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! Our oldest son loves everything about space, so this was an absolutely treat for him. None of us had ever been there before, and we quickly realized we could easily spend a couple of days at this massive celebration of the last frontier. We hope you enjoy the video and blog, and don’t forget to subscribe to both!
We had toyed with the idea of visiting the Space and Rocket Center when deciding locations for our trip, but we had so many other outdoor activities planned that we just figured we could take a day trip some other time since it’s relatively close to where we live. That plan went out the window when the rain came in at the KOA we were staying at in Decatur, just down the street from Huntsville. It rapidly became clear that the Space Center would be the best place to make lemonade out of lemons, so we packed up and made our way to the home of the rocket that put man on the moon! And here I can barely get an old car to crank to take me a few miles up the road.
When we approached the massive property that houses so many artifacts of the United States’ age of space travel, we could see the massive rockets and one of the rides from the main highway. We quickly learned that these rockets that were used to launch man to the moon all those years ago are SO much larger than people realize. Every time we’d see these massive engines on television they always seemed relatively small, but when seen in person it’s clear that’s an illusion. These things, especially the Saturn V, are massive.
We started through the gift shop and made our way through the various exhibits that showed off a ton of history from the time NASA began its endeavors to get us to space. There were so many artifacts scattered around, from space-themed Lego sets to old postcards from the 60’s. It wasn’t long, though, before we found ourselves in the drones exhibit, which is actually in an area that serves as a sort of rotating display over the course of months. The drone exhibit showed off technology from the common DJI personal drones that many people own to various military UAV’s (Reaper and Predator) to prototype aircraft from around the world. It was truly a neat exhibit, but it was shortly after that we were able to take part in our first simulation!
We found ourselves at the aptly named “Hypership,” which is an enclosed “ride” that looks sort of like the cockpit of one of the Space Shuttles. When you enter, you take a seat (it fits about 12) and the front contains a large screen, similar to a small IMAX screen. You then have the option to pick one of a few “missions,” all of which are themed differently. For example, they have one where you’re flying and fighting the Red Baron, and another called “Black Hole” where you’re navigating through space. In all of them, you sit back and enjoy the ride as the ship tilts and rocks in different directions to make a neat VR experience.
We then navigated through to the area where they have an amazing mock-up of the International Space Station. This was probably one of the most educating experiences for the boys, as they were totally engrossed in the various videos that were recorded by astronauts on the actual ISS. It was incredible to see how they live in space while comparing the video to a spot you’re standing in that is built exactly like the ISS all those miles above Earth.
This was also the location that houses the awesome Multi-Axis Trainer. If you’ve seen our Youtube videos then you’ll recognize this as the machine that sends Z flying in circles in our title sequence, and it’s also shown in the video embedded at the top of this blog post. It’s actually a bit intimidating to watch, and I’m super proud of Z even strapping in to go for the ride. The ride simulates a flight tumble, and it both spins and flips the occupant all over the place. It’s truly not one for the weak of stomach.
After leaving the Multi-Axis Trainer we found ourselves outside once again. Before heading to the building that houses the massive Saturn V rocket, we checked out the simulated moon surface. This spot also shows a ton of different landing craft and military vehicles, all of which you can walk right up to and see in person. The highlight of this outdoor area, though, is the aptly named Moonshot. It’s a vertical ride that launches you 140 feet into the air in 2.5 seconds, where you feel a full 4 G’s of force at launch. You then suspend in weightlessness for about 2-3 seconds before you drop back down at a force of 1 G. It then launches you back up and down a couple of more times before you descend back down to the landing pad. Trust me when I say, going to with a young teenager is totally worth seeing them yell and scream as they top out and float there for a couple of seconds before taking a free-fall drop back down to Earth.
We actually ended up riding this one twice, because it was incredible. We almost died from laughter listening to Z scream, while Z apparently just felt like he was in his last moments (the Youtube video tells all). Once we finished up outside though, it was time to head into the giant building that holds one of the Saturn V rockets. They have it turned horizontally and suspended above while you’re able to walk around the building and learn all kinds of facts about the Saturn V, its design, and its missions. They also have so many other neat displays, like a Lunar Lander and Lunar Rover, moon rocks, and even the old AirStream trailer that was used as a quarantine location for astronauts after they returned to earth. Many of these old vehicles and containers you can actually walk through (or sit in) and feel how cramped these astronauts would have been while on the long trek to the moon. It’s truly surreal to think about how they must have felt.
A visit to the Space and Rocket Center is a must for anyone who has any interest in space travel. Every one of us enjoyed it, even Baby J and Ray-Ray. It truly has something for everyone, no matter the age. They do a great job of making every exhibit educational while also fun for the younger crowd, and it was honestly somewhere in which we could’ve spent another full day. It’s worth noting that they have a program called Space Camp, which is an awesome event for younger children to come camp at the location while engaging in activities to learn all about space travel. It’s something we may even sign Z up for this coming summer. This is one location on our road trip we’re actually within reasonable driving distance to, so we’ll absolutely be coming back here for a day (or overnight) trip again!