Seeing the third Saturn V

There are only three Saturn V rockets left in the world. One is at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center. That one I’ve seen a few times. I never get tired of seeing the Saturn V there.

Another one is at Space Center Houston, which I got to visit a few years ago. There I learned that there were only three left in the world. Since this was the second Saturn V I’d seen, I thought to myself “Well, now I have to see all of them.”

The third, and final Saturn V I got to see is in the Saturn V Hall at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. Outside the Davidson Center where the Saturn V is located is an equally impressive but slightly smaller mockup of the Saturn V. Makes the building easy to find if you’re exploring the Space and Rocket Center.

Saturn V mockup outside the Davidson Center at the US Space and Rocket Center

After going inside the building and up the stairs, you’re greeted with the massive business end of the Saturn V rocket once you turn the corner to enter the exhibit hall.

The base of the Saturn V with the huge F1 rocket engines
The flamy end of the Saturn V rocket

In addition to the Saturn V overhead, there are lots of displays and exhibits telling the history of rocket development and the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.

View from the tip of the Saturn V rocket
Pointy end of the Saturn V rocket

The Saturn V never ceases to amaze me. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of seeing one.

The US Space and Rocket Center is a great place to visit. There’s lots to see and do there. The Rocket Park (like Kennedy’s Rocket Garden) was having a lot of work being done, but it’s still a fun area to wander around. Check out the Saturn IB and a mockup of part of Skylab (made from pieces that were used for training in the Neutral Bouyancy Simulator) on display in the Rocket Park. Walk around the Shuttle Park where you’ll find a mockup of a Space Shuttle with the external tank and boosters when we were there. Highly recommend going to the US Space and Rocket Center if you’re in the area (or even if you aren’t).

Oh, and bring a banana to leave for Miss Baker and Big George.

Next quest: See all the Space Shuttles. on display I’ve already seen the Shuttle Atlantis at KSC. Three more to go.

Visiting Space Center Houston

Last weekend we were in Houston and paid a visit to Space Center Houston, the visitors center for NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC).

NASA Johnson Space Center
NASA Johnson Space Center

Like Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Space Center Houston (SCH) is a pretty fun place to visit. It’s not quite as large as KSC, but it’s got some pretty sweet exhibits including Independence Plaza that features the Boeing 747 that ferried the space shuttles across the country.

Independence Plaza
Independence Plaza at Space Center Houston

I highly recommend the 90 minute tram tour that will take you into NASA JSC. If you go early and catch the first or second tour (SCH opens at 9 or 10 AM. See the calendar for hours), you’ll avoid the long line. The tram tour takes you into JSC where you’ll get to go into the Christopher C Craft Mission Control building, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, and Rocket Park.

At Rocket Park, you’ll see some of the rocket engines that powered the Saturn V, rockets used for the Mercury and early Apollo programs, and the king of rockets, the Saturn V.

The Saturn V at SCH is one of three remaining Saturn V rockets and was restored fairly recently.

From the SCH website:

There are only three Saturn V rockets on display in the world. The rocket at NASA Johnson Space Center is the only one comprised of all flight-certified hardware. The other two rockets are made of flight hardware, mock-ups and test components. The three segments, called stages, contain the powerful engines needed to lift off, entering orbit to reach the moon. In total, 13 Saturn V rockets launched into space.

When you’re back from the tour, head over to Independence Plaza where you can wander through the NASA 905 SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) and the Shuttle Independence, a replica space shuttle. This is another one you probably want to get to early in the day so that it’s not too crowded. We went first thing in the morning on our second day visiting SCH, and had the shuttle and 747 pretty much all to ourselves.

Make sure to stop in the food court where you can have lunch sitting next to the Galileo shuttlecraft (NCC-1701/7) used in the Star Trek episode Galileo Seven. This is the actual set prop that was used in the episode and fully restored. You can read about the Galileo’s history and the restoration at startrek.com.

Before leaving SCH (or before the doors open if you got there too early), make sure to walk the scale model of Solar System. It starts over on the left side of the parking lot near the SCH building and goes around the perimeter of the parking lot toward the main entrance.

Of course, the rest of the exhibits at SCH are pretty cool too. Lots of great shows, interactive displays and an impressive collection of space and space program artifacts. It’s a great place to spend a couple of days exploring while you’re in Houston.

Saturn V Immensity

I’ve mentioned it before. The Saturn V is a big big rocket. Until you see it in person though, it’s really hard to imagine just how big it is. Then, when you do see it, your mind is boggled that they actually worked and sent people into Earth/lunar orbit and to land on the moon.
Eleven times.

And then you wonder why we haven’t kept doing it.