History and Overview

Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists transformed Huntsville, Alabama, known in the 1950s as the “Watercress Capital of the World,” into a technology center that today is home to the second largest research park in the United States and to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) with its world-class educational program, Space Camp®.

The transformation grew from the smoke and fire that birthed America's space program. It is here in Huntsville that:

  • Rockets were developed that put the first U.S. satellite into orbit and sent men to the moon;
  • Propulsion for the space shuttle was developed
  • Modules for the International Space Station (ISS) were designed and built;
  • America’s next great ship – the Space Launch System – is being designed;
  • Science on the ISS is monitored 24/7 at the Payload Operations Center at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).

During the final months that von Braun and his team of scientists were refining the giant Saturn V rocket that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon, he was also preparing to launch another important project: a permanent exhibit to showcase the hardware of the space program. Von Braun was director of MSFC when he approached the Alabama Legislature with the idea of creating a museum jointly with the U.S. Army Missile Command and NASA. The U.S. Army donated land, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center® opened its doors in 1970. Since then, nearly 17 million people have toured the Center. Many of the more than 650,000 annual visitors are school students on field trips to their future. Dozens of interactive exhibits encourage guest participation, prompting one official to note: "Here, everyone can be an astronaut for the day!"

Home to Space Camp®, Aviation Challenge® Camp, Robotics Camp, and Cyber Camp the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) is the largest spaceflight museum in the world.

The USSRC’s large rocket and space hardware collection contains more than 1,500 items and is valued in the tens of millions of dollars. From America’s first satellite, Explorer I, to next generation space vehicles like Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, the museum showcases the past, present and future of human spaceflight.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center serves as the Official Visitor Center for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, a Visitor Center for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is more than just artifacts! Experience the physics of astronaut training in simulators like Moon Shot and G-Force. Our world-class INTUITIVE® Planetarium transports you through our universe and beyond with live shows and movies in a 67-foot dome theater, while amazing documentary films in our National Geographic Theater will have you seeing science in a whole new light.

Stay a day or stay longer: check out one of our internationally known camp programs for children and adults, Space Camp®, Aviation Challenge® Camp and Space Camp® Robotics.

There’s always something happening at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center!

Notable Artifacts

  • National Historic Landmark Saturn V Moon Rocket
  • Pathfinder – the world’s only full-stack space shuttle display
  • Apollo 16 Command Module
  • Skylab Orbital Workshop
  • Apollo 12 Moon Rock