Ever stand so close to an Apollo space capsule that you can envision opening its hatch in 1969 and joining astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean on the surface of the moon?
You can at the Virginia Air and Space Science Center in downtown Hampton, home to the original Apollo 12 capsule.
In 1986, the NASA Langley Research Center informed the City of Hampton that it was willing to move its visitor center downtown, giving people access to explore the past, present and future of air and space. As the birthplace of the nation’s air and space technology – think of the film “Hidden Figures” -- the city was only too happy to cooperate on the project.
The initial construction cost $30 million and was funded through a combination of city funds, state grants, and private philanthropy. The facility is 110,000 square feet and nine-stories high, situated on 2.2 acres in downtown.
Thirty-five years later, the Virginia Air and Space Science Center features interactive aviation exhibits spanning 100 years of flight, more than 30 historic aircraft, a hands-on space exploration gallery, unique space flight artifacts, and more.
Last fall, the Center began a $1.5 million update that resulted in dozens of new interactive displays and cutting-edge exhibits. Foremost among the project was a renovation of the Center’s IMAX Theater, including new seating, projection, flooring, and lighting. Improving on an already spectacular sensory experience, the finished product offers a more immersive IMAX experience than ever before.
A private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, the Center is located at 600 Settlers Landing Road. Admission for adults is $20, seniors pay $18, children under 18 are $16.50. Active military pay $17. All admission tickets include entrance to the IMAX theater. Currently, two films are being shown.
The Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., noon to 5 on Sunday. Covid-19 precautions are in effect. For more information, visit this website vasc.org or phone 757 727 0900.
The Apollo 12 space capsule
The Viking Lander took the first color photograph of the surface of Mars, which showed that the "Red Planet" was really red.
Photos courtesy of Virginia Air and Space Science Museum