Huntsville, Alabama is the unlikely home of what is sometimes called the largest space museum on Earth. It is a state government museum operated by the government of Alabama and has a large display of rockets and many other artifacts showcasing America's world-leading space program. The museum covers both the Air Force's military history developing missiles and NASA's peaceful space exploration.

It is the perfect destination for space enthusiasts and history buffs alike. It is easily one of Alabama's top tourism jewels. Some of their displays are truly awe-inspiring - like their full-stack Space Shuttle (complete with two solid rocket boosters and an external tank). To see another museum where space meets the Navy, see here for why visit New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air, And Space Museum.

THETRAVEL VIDEO OF THE DAY

About The Space And Rocket Center

The Space & Rocket Center's coverage starts at the beginning of rockets and space exploration. During World War Two, it was Nazi Germany that was the most advanced in developing rockets. But instead of firing them into space, they made them to fire at London. They hoped raining terror down on London would break the UK's will to fight. That didn't happen, and today one can see the history of these early rockets of war - the V-1 and V-2 rockets at the Space and Rocket Center.

America (and the USSR) acquired these Nazi rockets and soon pointed the rockets into space - setting off the Space Race and space exploration. One can see the progression from these primitive German rockets, to the first primitive American rockets and their progression through time. Follow the timeline through today where it culminates with the upcoming Space Launch System destined to put people on Mars.

  • Date Opened: 1970 (Just After The Apollo 12 Moon Landing)
  • Bonus: The Center Also Offers Bus Tours Of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Nearby

Related: What To Expect When Visiting The Replica Museum Of The Mayflower

Huntsville has a long history with the Space Program. It is known as the "Rocket City" as this is where the rockets were developed that first put those men on the moon.

  • Going to Mars: Planned To Be The Space Launch System

Learn about those first lunar landings side by side with NASA's current plans to travel to the red planet. At the center, one can learn how once again Huntsville is playing a role in space exploration and this time to Mars.

Notable Exhibits and Displays

Their exhibits include Apollo Program hardware, Space Shuttle exhibits, Army rockets and aircraft, interactive science exhibits, and more.

Some of their more notable permanent collections include:

  • Explorer I: The First American Satellite
  • Capsule Trainer: The Orginal Capsule Trainers For The Mercury and Gemini Programs
  • Design Modules: For The International Space Station
  • Vehicles: Next Generation Vehicles Like Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser
  • Models: Current Models for The SLS
  • Space Shuttle: The Pathfinder Was The First Manufactured Space Shuttle Orbiter (It Was A Mockup To Test The Vehicle)
  • Space Shuttle Display: The Pathfinder Sits Atop an External Tank With Solid Rocket Boosters Attached
  • Project Nike Series: Formed The First Ballistic Missile Defense
  • MIM-23 Hawk: A Surface to Air Missile
  • Hermes: An Early Surface To Surface Missile
  • Nuclear Missiles: MGR-1 Honest John and Corporal Missiles
  • Patriot: Surface To Air Missiles First Used In the 1991 Gulf War

Note: Some Exhibits Are Temporarily Closed As Social Distancing Is Not Possible

In addition to the above exhibits, the Space & Rocket Center also offers bus tours of the Marshall Space Flight Center. The tour takes visitors to all four National Historic Landmarks. The bus tour also stops at the Payload Operations and Integration Center - the mission control center for a number of experiments.

Related: America's Most Interesting And Historic Naval Museum Ships, And How To Visit Them

Visiting The Museum

  • General Admission: Adults $25.00, Children (Aged 5 to 12) $17.00, Under 4 Years Old $0.00
  • Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Days Open: Everyday Except Thanksgiving Day, Xmas Eve, Xmas Day, New Year's Day

One of the main draws to the center is the Space Camp. It is designed to "inspire and motivate youth to push the boundaries of human exploration just as generations before them did." Most of the campers come in the summer months for the week-long programs - mostly for school kids from 4th grade to high school students. There are some programs even available for adults, whole families, and even corporate groups.

The museum is very family-friendly with plenty of interactive and informative displays to keep the kids entertained and engaged. They also have a number of movies to watch that will take one into space and see the wonders of space travel. Watch as the kids leave the museum declaring they are going to be astronauts when they grow up. See here for other reasons why Alabama should be on your bucket list.

Next: What You Need To Know About Visiting The Smithsonian Museums In D.C.