Stennis Space Center is NASA's primary location for rocket propulsion testing. It occupies a sizable chunk of Hancock County, along Mississippi's Gulf Coast. The actual test facility includes about 13,500 acres of land, but the larger Space Center itself encompasses a much large 125,000 acre buffer zone to make sure resulting noises don't adversely impact people in surrounding communities.
A shuttle bus brought visitors onto the base, and after a brief driving tour, dropped passengers off at the Visitor Center.
There were many hands-on, interactive exhibits at the StenniSphere. Here one of our little guys got to pretend he was an astronaut on an interplanetary spacewalk. He wasn't actually wearing the suit. The back was cut out and if you look closely you can see the sides of the little ladder that let him climb into it. Nonetheless he was excited to be a "real astronaut" and now he's just about set for a future NASA career.
He also got to fly in a model of the space shuttle cockpit. This exhibit included computer simulations that allowed visitors to attempt a variety of tasks performed routinely on actual space shuttle missions. One of them operated a robot arm to retrieve a communications satellite. Fortunately for us it was only a simulation because otherwise the satellite would have gone spinning off into space.
Another exhibit allowed visitors to simulate rocket engine tests like those performed by real NASA scientists at Stennis. Participants proceeded through a series of steps, which if followed correctly would result in a successful firing of the rocket engines.
Larger items could not fit within the Visitor Center so they were displayed outside on the immediate grounds where people could wander among them. This is a solid rocket booster that NASA used for the Space Shuttle program. These are recovered and reused after each Space Shuttle launch.
Here is an example of an F-1 rocket engine used on the first stage of a Saturn V vehicle for the Apollo program. Powerful engines like this one carried men safely to the moon. At Stennis we could venture right up to the historic objects and pioneering rockets that made space exploration possible.
You may be interested in reading my Stennis Bus Tour page to learn about the rest of the tour.
Resources for Planning your Visit
© 1995-2011 All Rights Reserved. Last Updated January 15, 2011.