I’m all about making the most of my kids’ passions. I know that our current obsession with space could last a lifetime, or it could be outgrown by the time we turn nine. But space and space travel are current obsessions around here. My seven year old is preparing herself to be on the first mission to Mars. Setting aside my mom-fears on that whole topic, I do all I can to indulge her interests. We’ve checked out ALL the astronaut books, Mars books, and books on space travel! We astronaut train daily, turning flips, doing math, researching all the things. I’ve learned so much! I even just finished reading a book, The Astronauts Wives Club, which totally blew my mind — space travel is insane!
Anyway, this year close to her birthday I saw a random ad on social media, I usually refuse to be a sucker for those, BUT this was the Space Center Houston advertising a family camp out. AT NASA. UNDER spacecrafts. Cue all the excitement. So the husband and I discussed offering this opportunity to her in lieu of a party or gifts. We decided it would be well worth it; if she chose that option she, a friend, and I would attend the camp out. I knew she’d be excited about the prospect, but I wasn’t sure if she’d choose it over a party and gifts. I should have known better! She squealed so loudly, I was sure the neighbors would call! So we made the plans! Space Center Houston offers multiple family camp outs through out the year. We missed signing up for the April one; it was sold out. So we got the next available date, in June. Because I’m not a masochistic, I opted for the indoor option & we made our plans inviting her friend. We offered a complimentary stay for her friend, but also offered their mom to join us if she so chose — because who would want to miss out on such a fun adventure?!
Here’s the breakdown. I went into this whole experience with little to no expectations, but Space Center Houston blew my ever loving mind! I knew the basics; dinner and breakfast would be provided, we’d have some time to explore the museum while it was closed to the public but before our dinner, STEM activities would follow dinner, a small rocket launch, and day pass which could be used the next day or as a rain check. But y’all! This was an epic adventure!! We got to the Space Center as early as we could, we didn’t want to miss a moment! We checked in and began to explore! We saw the inside of the Mercury V, we toured the 747 that toted it back and forth, we let the girls geek out over the Mars section, honestly we toured a large portion of the museum because there were no lines!
Dinner was actually delicious, especially for a mass produced meal! After dinner the STEM projects began! This was like opening a candy shop to my science gal. There was astronaut training, coding, programming, rocket building, escape room, scavenger hunt, robotics; the opportunities were awesome. The girls cruised from program to program. They particularly loved the Bee-Bots and Sphero Minis. Watching them code and learn the robots sensitivities was truly awesome! During this time we were allowed to buy t shirts, patches and discounted day passes. By the time all the activities had ended, Space Center Houston rounded us all up and we headed outside to watch them launch rockets. This disappointed the girls a bit, mostly because they thought these would be SPACE rockets and these were model rockets. But their disappointment quickly waned as they “claimed” a rocket and hoped theirs achieved the highest distance. Next came sleeping assignments, the girls were ecstatic to find we were assigned a room with a beautiful starscape and a model Mercury V. We changed into jammies and crashed pretty quickly.
The next morning was an early rise, but again breakfast was pretty delicious. Afterward we we watched EVA-23 a semi intense movie about how Astronaut Luca Parmitano almost died in space during a basic EVA. It was crazy and amazing and eye opening! As the mom of a kid that wants to travel to Mars, it was also a little scary. After the movie they divided us up into groups of those staying and those cashing in their Day 2 rain checks. Since we chose to stay, we lined up for the tram tour (again before the museum actually opened) and were taken around the NASA campus, mission control, and to see the ACTUAL Saturn V. We learned so much! And the girls were told that the first set of Mars astronauts were probably currently 7-17 years — this thrilled them and has only increased the consumption of all things space and flight in my kid!
So long story semi-short, if you have the opportunity to indulge a space addict in your life with an overnight at Space Center Houston, don’t hesitate! We had a blast and only proved that experiences are the way to go for gifts!