HOUSTON―Pilot a spaceship through the galaxy, experiment with matter from outer space, successfully avert disaster, and work with crews back on Earth to bring the team safely home. At the world's first Expedition Center, which opened at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in 1988, thousands of kids build their science, communication, and teamwork skills on a simulated mission to outer space every year.
"The Expedition Center is a catalyst for a lifetime of exploration, in space or in any of the sciences," said Joel A. Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. "It, along with the many other exhibits at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, teaches kids to think for themselves and to investigate the world around them."
In an Expedition Center mission, kids are the crew aboard a simulated space ship headed for the moon or Mars and also work in a mock-up of NASA's Mission Control. Faced with the real-life challenges of a complex space mission, students learn teamwork and communication skills while experiencing the thrill of human space flight.
The first Expedition Center was created at the Houston Museum of Natural Science as a living memorial to the astronauts who died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion on January 28, 1986. In its 24 years of operation, over 150,000 students and teachers from all over the world have flown missions in the center. Since the original center opened in Houston, 52 others have opened across theUnited States, Canada, and England.
The Museum now maintains two Expedition Centers, which are part of the international network of 52 such centers that fly simulated missions to outer space every day. A second center is located at the George Observatory, a satellite facility of the Houston Museum of Natural Science located in Brazos Bend State Park.
The Museum's Expedition Centers have been honored with awards for most students participating in missions, most public participants in missions, and most total flights completed by a center in a museum. In 2007, patches representing over 400 Expedition Center flights flew on the STS 120 mission with NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski.
Reservations for the Expedition Center missions are required. Call (713) 639-4629 to make reservations for missions at the Museum or (281) 242-3055 to make reservations for missions at the George Observatory.