Where did you go to celebrate Christmas? My son and I headed down to Louisiana to visit my parents, which was a trip long over do since we haven’t celebrated with family members down south in eleven years. After a couple of days of gorging ourselves with an enormous amount of food and sitting on our bottoms, we decided to get out of the house and move around a little. I was excited to learn that the Infinity Space Center recently opened in 2012, so we headed over the Louisiana border to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Located at the Stennis Space Center, the Infinity which is actually the largest rocket engine testing facility in the United States. Stennis Space Center consist of 14,000 acres and has it’s own zip code. This unique scientific and corporate city is host to employees for NASA, federal agencies, university satellite campuses and companies like Rolls Royce. Visitors can take a 30-minute bus tour of Stennis, which is included in the admission of the Infinity Science Center located nearby. The Infinity Science Center rises out of the pine forest next to the Mississippi Welcome Center and has both indoor and outdoor exhibits. As soon as we drove up, my nephews couldn’t contain their excitement when they spotted the F-1 rocket engine that powered the Apollo flights to the moon. This was a great family excursion that kept us entertained for two and a half hours and to top it off, it was relatively inexpensive with tickets at $8 for adults and $6 for kids and seniors. Below are some of the highlights from our visit that just might entice your family to have their own space adventure when visiting the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Exploring the First Floor & Riding the ISC Omega
When we entered the 72,000 square-foot building, we quickly found ourselves in the Science Express area. This area now features an exhibit called Great Nations Dare to Explore designed in a maze with hands-on experiences where we “traveled” through history from early Egypt to future colonies on Mars.
Next, we took a journey in the Science on a Sphere theater, which is the coolest way to learn about the solar system. The sphere’s computer system has four projectors, so it allowed revolving animated views of the Earth’s atmosphere and took us a million miles away to the sun, moon and other planets.
Just outside the theater, we checked out the Apollo Capsule Model and then the interactive exhibits where the boys had fun taking turns getting their picture taken as an astronaut and learning how NASA plays a role in the game of golf and fishing.
Of course, the big favorite was riding the “ISC-OMEGA Flight Simulator.” This high tech thrill ride offers an HD big screen experience accompanied by six degrees of motion which are the same technology used for training professional pilots. The boys had a BLAST!
The Space Gallery was on the second floor, and it traced NASA’s history and achievements through different space programs like Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle. Here the boys had fun venturing through the ISS Destiny Module which is America’s Research Laboratory in Space and is part of the International Space Station.
There were several rocket models, and we even saw a real rock from the moon. The Controlled Environment Agriculture Unit was informative, and we were able to check out the Butterhead lettuce that had been growing without soil, bugs or pesticides in the nursery chamber.
Build the Space Shuttle and the Thermal Image were two interactive exhibits that were a lot of fun and kept the boys busy while learning at the same time.
Outside the entrance, there is a plaza of outdoor exhibits which include buoys, riverine craft, and rocket engines. We were surprised to find out that Stennis is the only place in the world that manufactures tsunami buoys.
Bus Tour of Stennis Space Center
The Bus Tour was 30 minutes and lead us through the second largest space center in the United States. We passed by the testing area of rocket engines, the EPA laboratories, training site for the Navy Seals and saw wildlife like the white tail deer. We also learned that Stennis is the home of the highest number of oceanographers in the world and saw a huge rocket booster.
Back in the Infinity Science Center, you will find the Infinity Restaurant. This restaurant is not like your typical fast-food cafeteria that you see in museums. I was pleasantly surprised to see many local favorites like seafood gumbo, red beans and rice and PoBoy’s on the menu. There are no admission to enter the restaurant, so remember to stop on by if you are passing through on I-10. It sure beats the options at the welcome center nearby.
I have wanted to check out the Houston Space Center and the Kennedy Space Center, so stumbling upon Infinity was a pleasant surprise and turned out to be a fun, educational way to spend the day with family.
What space center has your family visited?