Our Top 10 Stops for a Space Program Road Trip


Langley Visitors' Center, Hampton, Va.

Crank up your favorite oldies, and go retro at the Langley visitors' center, which sits inside the Virginia Air & Space Center in downtown Hampton. It's filled with space projects from the 1960s through the '80s. For example, back when scientists were planning for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to land on the moon, they had worries, like could the astronauts fly the lander? Could they land it vertically? To help the pilots practice, Langley built the lunar excursion module simulator (LEMS). Engineers hung this model of the lunar lander from a frame, dangling it at one-sixth Earth's gravity. The two pioneering astronauts could then practice touching down the vehicle on a fake moon surface. The retired simulator now resides at the visitors' center [sources: Langley, VASC].

While at Langley, you'll also meet a Viking -- not an ancient Scandinavian, however. You'll see a model of the Viking lander that first explored Mars, snapping photos of the soil that showed the planet was actually red and looking for life (none was found) [sources: VASC, Williams]. You can see the basic exhibits for between $9.50 and $11.50 [source: VASC].

It's time for a long drive to Alabama, but the directions aren't rocket science. The destination, however, does quite a bit of that.