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Discover the NASA Museum at Moffett Field

Guess which Apollo mission was the last, zoom through the solar system, handle a real moon rock, and could this all possibly be free?

If you have ever taken the Moffett exit from the 101, and headed east, driving the block or so to the Moffett Field base main gate, you may have been left wondering, "what's inside that big white tent?"

We had been wondering exactly the same thing for quite a while, and one recent Saturday we stopped to check it out.

It turns out that the big white tent is the NASA Ames Exploration Center.  My husband was pretty excited—he's generally game to check out anything related to outer space. And, we were all pretty surprised by how exciting the exhibits were inside—and right under our noses, here in Mountain View.

We came away with different highlights.  I was really impressed by the depth of knowledge of the NASA docents.

One person asked, "was Apollo 13 the last Apollo mission?"

What followed was a very good-natured—and in-depth explanation—of the Apollos 14, 15, 16 and 17 which followed, with exciting annecdotes about each. Particularly Apollo 17, which was depicted with large full wall photographs in one of the rooms inside the tent.

My husband was excited to see on display an actual moon rock. And, nearby is a glove bag arrangement which was used for the analysis of the samples brought back from the moon. (Putting hands inside was a hit with our son).

Our son's favorite? Either the planetarium projections which zoom you through the solar system, or deeper into the Milky Way ... or maybe his favorite was the set-up of the infrared camera where he could see which parts of his body were the hottest or coldest—and laugh at Mommy's and Daddy's glasses which showed up as much darker than their faces.

Some other great exhibits include models of space probes, an actual Mercury capsule (launched into space in 1960), International Space Station hardware, and movies showing astronauts working in space.  (Our son loved watching astronauts eat their snack in microgravity.)

The basics:

- Admission: Free

- Hours: Tues. to Fri. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Weekends Noon - 4pm.  (Closed Mondays and holidays)

- Location: Just off Highway 101 at the Moffett Boulevard exit. Head east toward the bay; it's to the right and just before the gate of the NASA Ames / Moffett Field checkpoint.

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