Tucked inside an expansive white tent in Mountain View is one of the Silicon Valley’s most amazing ‘museums’ – the NASA Ames Exploration Visitor Center. Within its canvas walls are exhibits and projects that provide a glimpse into the outer-wordly wonders that the NASA Ames scientists have conducted in the past and what possibilities the future might offer.
Open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 4pm as well as noon to 4pm Saturday and Sunday, this free, self-guided tour includes a 60 seat hi-res, immersive theatre that draws viewers into a mission on Mars, simulated flights through the Milky Way galaxy and shares insights into projects conducted by NASA Ames researchers.
Visitors can see the Mercury Redstone 1A capsule. Launched on December 19, 1960, it was the final unmanned test flight before the Mercury 7 astronauts embarked on their space adventure five months later. Also on display is a piece of the 16 pound moon rock sample brought back by astronauts from the Apollo 15 mission. See models of NASA Ames past and present pivotal spacecraft missions, see the Earth from a new perspective with the Science on a Sphere Visualization System (pictured above) and participate in the Living and Working in Space exhibit that explores and explains micro-gravity research.
Originally founded as the second National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics laboratory (NACA), the agency was dissolved and ultimately became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on October 1, 1958. NASA Ames is named in honor of Joseph Sweetman Ames, both a physicist and one of the founding members of NACA. At last estimate NASA has over $3 billion in capital equipment, 2,300 research personnel and a $860 million annual budget.
The initial goal of Ames was to conduct wind-tunnel research on the aerodynamics of propeller-driven aircraft. Over the years, its role has expanded, encompassing both spaceflight and information technology.
What goes on behind the doors at the NASA Ames Research Center is highly classified but through the Exploration Visitor Center, visitor can learn about the wonders and mysteries of space, far-away galaxies, the universe, planets and stars.
Before your visit, you may want to explore the NASA website. Bursting with fantastic information and images about all things space, the site is an excellent source for current and historical explorations, research and projects.
The NASA Ames Exploration Center is located at the NASA Ames Research Center campus at Moffett Field. A map and directions are available here.