Looking for a fun place for family and friends to visit that's only a short distance away? Then, take a day trip to NASA John C. Stennis Space Center's visitor center, StenniSphere.
Located just north of Bay St. Louis in Hancock County, Miss., SSC is home to America's largest rocket engine test complex, where NASA tested the Apollo Saturn V engines that took Americans to the moon in the 1960s. Today, every space shuttle main engine is test-fired and proven flight-worthy at Stennis.
StenniSphere's 14,000-square-foot museum offers fun and educational hands-on activities for children and adults, ranging from a mock test control center to a real space shuttle main engine. A live stage presentation of "Experimentation Station" demonstrates how astronauts live and work in the extreme environments aboard the space shuttle and the International Space Station. Visitors can also experience how astronauts journeyed to the moon and learn how future expeditions to Mars and beyond will be conducted.
Begin the journey in the Launch Pad at the Hancock County Welcome Center on Interstate 10, just 45 minutes east of New Orleans and west of Biloxi and about a three-hour drive from metro Jackson.
Before leaving the Launch Pad, view a 30-foot Lunar Lander used to train Apollo astronauts for their moon missions. It is displayed above the boot prints and autograph of Apollo 13 astronaut and Biloxi, Miss., native Fred Haise.
Then, board a shuttle headed to StenniSphere and enjoy a 25-minute narrated tour, which features an up-close view of the massive test stands. Visitors often get to experience the shake, rattle and roar of a rocket engine as it is being tested.
The latest attraction at StenniSphere is a 3-D Visualization Lab exhibit for visitors of all ages. Wearing special 3-D glasses, visitors may view the solar system, including day and night images of the Sun and Earth rotations. Also, an animation of Hurricane Katrina's storm surge along the Gulf Coast between Hancock County and Pascagoula may be viewed.
Discover all this and more through StenniSphere's many informative and exciting displays and exhibits at StenniSphere from NASA, the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command and other resident agencies located at the NASA field center.
During weekday visits to StenniSphere, dine for lunch at the 1960s-style café, the RocKeTeria. On Saturdays, pack a brown-bag lunch and sit among the real- and scale-model displays in the visitor center's rocket park. NASA John C. Stennis Space Center memorabilia may be purchased at the Space Odyssey Gift Shop.
StenniSphere offers free tours to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Charter tours may be scheduled Monday through Saturday, except major holidays. Visitors 18 and older must present valid state or federal issued identification, such as a driver's license or passport. All foreign nationals must also present a valid passport. Permanent resident aliens must present their federal resident alien card. For more information, call 1-800-237-1821 or 228-688-2370; or visit http://www1.ssc.nasa.gov/public/visitors/.
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