If you are looking for something free and a rainy day activity with the kids in the Spring take time to discover Cleveland’s connection with outer space.
For fifty years the NASA Glenn Research Center has been Ohio’s link to the Moon and outer space. Many people don’t realize that in this post 9-11 era that U. S. Citizens are still welcome at the visitor center at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. You will have to contend with security requirements but the center is open seven days a week.
For those not familiar with the Cleveland NASA Facility it’s a chance to get an up close look at some of the space age technology, as well as a peek at what Ohio’s contribution to the exploration of space has been and will be in the near future.
The research center played an important role in the missions of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth and Neil Armstrong the first human to walk on the moon, as well as other astronauts who have gone to the frontiers of space.
The visitor center contains six galleries that cover six thousand square feet that include exhibits that tell the story of our quest for space exploration, and other exhibits that honor Ohioans who have gone into space. The center is named for John Glenn not only for his pioneering space flight, but for also later in life becoming the oldest man to go into space when at the age of 77 he blasted into orbit a second time as a member of the crew on the Space Shuttle “Discovery”. You will see replicas of Glenn’s 1960-era silver space suit as well as the orange jump suit he wore on STS-95.
There are actual moon rocks on display brought from the lunar surface by the various Apollo crews that walked on the moon. The Apollo Command Module used on Skylab 3 is one of the biggest pieces of space memorabilia in the gallery. You can see some quirky space souvenirs like the first baseball pitched from space to open the World Series in 1996.
Besides lots of technical exhibits there are fun, hands-on things like a simulator with a real pilot seat where you can become the pilot-in-command of everything from a WWI bi-plane to a modern jumbo Jet. There is another hands-on display where you can try your hand at landing a simulated Lunar Landing module near the site of earlier Apollo landings on the moon and have your skill rated against other people who have made the landing successfully.
Don’t forget the auditorium at the visitor center. Here an enormous wall-sized television screen is used when space events like shuttle launches and landings are going on. It’s a chance to feel like you are in mission control with local experts on hand to describe what is happening and answer questions. At other times it is used for groups to see slide and video presentations and sometimes even very close looks at models of rockets and space suits and gear used by astronauts.
The gift shop at the visitor center offers some unique space-related souvenirs from model rockets, pictures, patches and postcards to astronaut ice cream (their most popular item). It looks and feels like chalk but when you put it in your mouth and it dissolves it tastes just like ice cream.
It is very important to remember this is a working, security-intensive Federal installation. so be sure to check their web site or call ahead to be sure you will be in compliance with their security regulations. Nothing can spoil a family trip like arriving at the destination and being delayed or even turned away because you did not comply with the rules.
Here are some of the main security regulations you must comply with to visit the visitor center.
Adults must be US Citizens and have a government issued I.D. (An Ohio Drivers License will be accepted).
You, your car and possessions may be searched. Things like guns, weapons, including things like chemical or pepper spray and illegal drugs can be confiscated.
No pets or animals are allowed on the premises with the exception of assistance animals like guide dogs for the blind.
Again, if you have a question, do check with the visitor center before arriving.
In most cases gaining admission is no worse than going through airport security, but do allow some extra time for security checks in your plans. Once past the gate you will get a warm welcome at the visitor center and best of all a peek at where we have gone and our future in space. You might call it a “One Rocket Trip”.
Visitor Center, NASA Glenn Research Center, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135, 216-43…, www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/about/visitgrc.html