Space has managed to capture the imaginations of countless people, young and old. And it's no wonder; with its infinite library of unexplored cosmos, space is truly the final frontier. And with its prominence in pop culture and the endless amount of scientific research going into space, the popularity of space is rivaled only by the size of space itself.
If you are looking to satisfy your inner space-lover, there are plenty of great places to visit, even for us Earthlings. Whether you are the next Mars colonist, an aspiring rocket scientist or you just love to look up at the stars, there are plenty of vacation spots that are great for Space-lovers.
10 Palomar Observatory, California
The Palomar Observatory, located outside of San Diego, has three active telescopes that visitors can visit on guided or self-guided tours. The observatory has been operational for nearly 100 years and its telescopes have aided in several astronomic discoveries since their construction.
Most famous is its enormous 200 inch Hale telescope, which was the largest telescope in the world until 1993. This telescope has lead to advancements in "Solar System studies, the search for extrasolar planets, stellar population and evolution analysis, and the characterization of remote galaxies" according to its website.
9 Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, Moscow, Russia
The Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union was a huge piece of space travel history, and the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow is a great place to learn about space research from the other side's point of view. This museum showcases Soviet science's evolution over time, including many of its old spacecraft. There is also a theater for informative movies on cosmonaut history.
For the vast majority of us that don't speak Russian, going on a tour with an English-speaking guide is available and is highly recommended.
8 8.Very Large Array, New Mexico
The Very Large Array, located about 50 miles from Socorro, New Mexico, is one of the world's largest astronomical radio observatories. Very Large Array has 27 radio antennas, each 82 feet wide, that produce images of the sky through radio waves.
The VLA offers guided tours on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 11 AM to 3 PM where visitors have the chance to see "behind-the-scenes" of what goes on among VLA staff members and how the antennas work. This is a great trip for anyone interested in the technical side of space research.
7 Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Here's one for the adventurous types. Mauna Kea is a legendary observatory located in the mountains of Hawaii's largest island. The Visitor's Information Station is located 9,200 ft above sea level and is an amazing place to view the stars thanks to its altitude and lack of pollution. For those who want to go the extra mile, literally, there are paths to the summit at 13,796 ft above sea level. Along with an amazing view, Mauna Kea offers telescopes to look through and tours of its star-gazing facilities.
Because the observatory is in such a remote location, this experience is not for anyone with serious health issues. However, it is a unique way to experience the stars from a beautiful, natural site far away from city lights.
6 Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
The Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world's first and largest space launch facility. Located in Kazakhstan, this is where Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite, and Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight, were launched by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Each year, there are several space launches of both manned and unmanned spacecraft. Space enthusiasts can take tours of Baikonur's facilities and even watch one of its space launches. However, due to its remote location in Kazakhstan, getting here is not always the most convenient.
5 Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
For those who want to feel like they're traveling through space, Walt Disney World has some great simulations. In Epcot, Mission: Space simulates a trip to Mars. Passengers are "briefed" by an astronaut team on how to control the space ship, and a G-Force of 2.5 if exerted on riders during the "lift-off" to make the experience highly immersive.
Disney also features Star Tours at Disney's Hollywood Studios, which is a space travel simulation themed around Star Wars. The ride takes riders through different planets and locations from the Star Wars universe, and with 54 randomized "tours" every ride feels different.
Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom, while not really a space simulation, is a fun roller coaster with a futuristic space theme. All of these are must-sees for anyone who's ever wondered what it would feel like to fly through the cosmos.
4 Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C.
The world-famous Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. features many important artifacts of space exploration history and should be at the top of any space-lover's travel list. Many space shuttles are showcased, including the Apollo Lunar Module, the Space Shuttle Discovery, and others.
In addition to space memorabilia, the museum also features the historic Albert Einstein Planetarium, a 360 degrees theater that immerses the audience into the starry sky on the screen. Also in the museum is the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater where viewers can enjoy movies about space and air travel on a really, really big screen.
3 NASA Space Center, Houston
Space Center Houston boasts of having "more than 400 things to see and do" according to its website and has the largest collections of spacesuits and Moon rocks on public display in the world. Houston's Starship Gallery hosts several spacecraft, such as the Apollo 17, the Mercury 9 and the Gemini V. The astronaut gallery showcases spacesuits that have been worn since the beginning of space travel. Mission Mars is an interactive exhibit that teaches visitors what it takes to travel to Mars. There's also replicas of spaceships to see, like the shuttle Independence.
There are all kinds of seasonal events at the space center as well, like luncheons with astronauts and behind-the-scenes tours of different space artifacts. Space Center Houston is a must-visit for anyone with even the slightest interest in the history of space travel.
2 Kennedy Space Center, Florida
The historic Kennedy Space Center, located near Cape Canaveral in Florida, gives visitors a chance to get up close and personal with space equipment. The KSC features a variety of exhibits, from the Rocket Garden's many models of space rockets, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, former astronauts presenting as speakers, a realistic space flight simulation, and one of the most popular attractions, a showcase of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
The Kennedy Space Center occasionally hosts real rocket launches that visitors can buy tickets to watch. For hardcore space nerds, watching a real rocket fly into space is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
1 International Space Station
Where is the ultimate travel destination for a lover of space? Well, space of course! Yes, there are actually people who have gone to the International Space Station as tourists, but it's not cheap. There have so far been seven tourists to visit the ISS, each paying somewhere between $20-$40 million.
There are active efforts to make space travel more accessible. Houston-based company Axiom Space is working on building the world's first commercial space station, with trips clocking in at around $55 million each. Start saving those pennies!