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Independence-Plaza1Something big will open at the nonprofit Space Center Houston in January. The newest international landmark, Independence Plaza, will open its doors to a one-of-a-kind, interactive experience featuring the first shuttle carrier aircraft, NASA 905, and the high-fidelity shuttle replica Independence. 

“Our new exhibit complex redefines the ultimate museum experience,” said Richard E. Allen Jr., president and CEO of the educationally focused museum, Space Center Houston. “Visitors from all over the world will walk through an unprecedented experience and learn about the accomplishments of the Space Shuttle Program and why the future of space exploration is still vitally important.” 

The nonprofit will debut the mammoth new exhibit on Jan. 23 with a triumphant grand opening at 8:30 a.m. The center doors open at 9 a.m. to celebrate and honor America’s space program with a full day of activities. Visitors will hear from astronauts, pilots and special guests who were critical in the Shuttle Program, have fun with interactive, educational activities and enjoy special photograph opportunities with heroes from the past and present. 

The eight-story multiple-exhibit complex is the biggest project for the nonprofit since the center opened in 1992. Bringing the 30-year Shuttle Program legacy to life, Independence Plaza features hands-on activities, multimedia displays and NASA artifacts – all inside a shuttle replica mounted on top of the Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft (SCA). 

Exhibition displays will immerse visitors in the science and history of the shuttle era. Visitors will explore the SCA that ferried orbiters 223 times and now carries the high-fidelity shuttle replica Independence, the world’s only shuttle mounted on an SCA and the only place where the public will be able to enter both. A dramatic look underneath the shuttle carrier aircraft and inside the lower fuselage will give visitors an up-close look inside the engineering marvel. 

The jumbo-sized complex will give visitors a rare glimpse into the ingenuity of the historic shuttle era and the NASA breakthroughs and technological advances gained from the shuttle program which impacted future exploration. Accessible via an elevator tower or stairs, visitors will enter both the shuttle and the airplane. In the shuttle, they will see the flight deck, mid-deck, payload bay and exhibits. The airplane will have seven dynamic areas that explore innovation, science and technology. Visitors will learn how the plane was retrofitted to carry the shuttle. 

Supporting Space Center Houston’s educational mission, the exhibits also emphasize problem-solving concepts and possible career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It honors those who designed, built and flew in America’s Space Shuttle Program by recounting stories from astronauts, engineers and pilots. The plaza shows the key role NASA Johnson Space Center played in the shuttle’s development and looks to the future through the research currently being performed at NASA. 

The exhibit complex will host educational programs and be used for special and private events in and around the plane. Learn more at and plan your visit at

Entry to the smaller shuttle will require free reservations while the larger plane will reply on a first-come, first-served line. An online reservation system will go live in January to allow visitors to obtain a timed ticket for the shuttle prior to their visit, as well as at the center. Members will enjoy exclusive tours of the exhibit during the first few months of opening. Purchase a Membership for a few dollars more than full-price admission and become a part of the foundation’s mission. Return free as often as you like during the year with free parking, special events and much more.

Pearland offers easy access to Space Center Houston and is the perfect pick for a stay.