Thursday, January 13, 2022

Huntsville Space and Rocket Center Review, Father and Son Trip

My son and I found ourselves in an unfortunate situation over the Christmas holidays; my wife had to work and we were both free. We usually take a family trip after Christmas so staying home after the holidays would simply be wrong. We have a rule around our house that we do not fret over the things we cannot change, we work through them. After discussing the plan with my wife, my son and I decided to pack our bags and take a short father-son road trip. After searching other nearby destinations, we decided on visiting the Space and Rocket Center located in Huntsville, AL. I had been to the Space center on an elementary-school field trip many years ago, knowing my son as well as I do, I knew he'd enjoy it too. 

The Interactive exhibit - We booked our trip online and also purchased tickets for two shows in the planetarium, I'll tell more about the planetarium later. We arrived an hour and a half prior to the first show which allowed us plenty of time to explore the interactive exhibit. This area has dozens of interactive and educational games for kids and adults. It is here that you test how fast you can punch a punching bag or see how long you can hang from a pull-up bar. My favorite game involved rapidly beating a bongo, the object being to play as fast as humanly possible until time runs out. Each game shows the top scores for the day and also the world record. The world record for the bongos is 558 beats, I posted a score of 494 beats. I believe it's safe to say that with some practice I could challenge the world record. 

Good to know: Each of the games begin by scanning a thumb print. Your scores for each game are recorded and they can all be accessed at the "check your score" kiosk by simply scanning your thumbprint. That's hi-tech!  

The Intuitive Planetarium - After an hour or so in the Interactive exhibit it was time to wind down in the Intuitive Planetarium over an interactive video and some snacks. We headed over to the planetarium a few minutes early to try and  avoid the line at the concession stand, it worked. They have plenty of snacks to choose from at the concession stand and they even sell beer and wine if that's what your in to. Since I was with my son, I decided to forego having a beer and chose to share a Coke, peanut M&M's, and a bag of popcorn. 

The first video, Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, covered the International Space Station (ISS). It was interesting because all of the footage was captured aboard the ISS. The ISS Experience was very educational and done a great job of explaining day-to-day life aboard the ISS. The fact that we watched the movie in such large format in the planetarium made it even better. Our second feature presentation was titled "Our Place in Space". A very small part of the feature is dedicated to Earth, the majority of the time is spent zipping around space to check out all of the other planets and galaxies. If I were forced to choose one video over the other, I would definitely choose this one. It is more interactive as the director communicates with the audience till the very end. Furthermore, being in the planetarium really brings this demonstration to life. I highly, highly recommend Our Place in Space, it's an awesome experience. 

Sorry, no photos or videos of the Planetarium, photography is strictly prohibited.  

Good to know:  If you are looking for something more than snacks or candy, the Mars Grill is located just around the corner from the concession stand. I asked the movie attendant if foods from Mars Grill were allowed in the planetarium and she said yes. That said, it may be a good idea to check again on your visit.

The Saturn-V Hall - In my opinion, I have saved the best for last; The Saturn-V Exhibit located in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. When we first stepped inside this exhibit, the massive Saturn-V rocket stretching the entire length of the building grabbed our attention. My son gazed up at it and I could tell he was both amazed and excited. This part of the tour really allows you to see the different stages of propulsion that the rocket goes through before exiting our earths atmosphere. Also truly amazing are the massive rocket engines on display, one of which is a ginormous F1. The F1 is literally bigger than most cars on the road. If I haven't sold you on how great the Saturn-V hall really is, be sure to check out the original Apollo-16 command module located at the opposite end of the building.

Good to know: Saturn-V hall is located away from the main building and will likely be the last exhibit you come to. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to take it all in. You may even consider visiting the Saturn-V hall towards the beginning or middle of the tour to ensure you do not feel rushed.

As our day at the Huntsville Space and Rocket center was ending, it was clear to me that the trip had been a success. We had turned our unfortunate situation into a great adventure. The Huntsville Space and Rocket Center was educational, entertaining, and exciting, all in one place. As we made our way back through the building and towards the car my son turned to me and said, "I love this place".  Forgive me for throwing this in but it is too cool to not share. Days after we returned home, I was pulling together my thoughts for this post. I asked my son "what was your favorite part of the space center"? Without hesitation he replied, "walking around with you". Yep! A successful father and son trip in the books.

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Additional Pictures From Saturn-V Hall

This is the H-1 rocket engine. You can see the much larger F-1 in the Background

Large scale sectioned model of the Saturn-5, the rocket stages are shown in great detail. 

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