My family and I visited the National Space Centre at Leicester in August 2008. I decided to go once I found the venue on the Tesco Clubcard site, so if you are a Tesco customer, then I recommend trading in some of your Clubcard points and save some money on entrance (if the Space Centre is still on the Tesco Clubcard site), also be ready to pay £1 for parking, but the price covers the whole days parking.
You can see the National Space Centre in the distance when driving to it as the main rocket tower stands out on the horizon. The tower actually contains two full size rockets, and you can actually have your lunch underneath the rockets in the restaurant.
At the entrance you are greeted by a hanging copy of one of the Soyuz satellites. After getting through the turnstiles you are then in the main exhibition areas, with each zone containing a new space topic. You can see space suits, astronaut menus, models of the ISS and more.
The main draw for me was the planetarium, and I think it was the best thing, we got one free visit to it which is included in the entrance price, other showings are charged at £3 each.
The main show in the planetarium was called “Life of stars” this was amazing with spinning objects that made you dizzy and introducing you to the history of astronomy, and the planets and our solar system and it was narrated by Mark Hamill.
I did attend another show entitled “Guide to the night’s sky”. The lights where turned down and the stars lit up, the narrator Becky, introduced us to several constellations and stars and the history behind them, great if you want to learn the basics about the night’s sky.
We also attended a talk on a future rover mission which will be heading to Mars called ExoMars.
The rocket tower not only includes two rockets but also has various things to see on each of the 3 levels via an open glass lift, this includes some real space engines, a Beagle 2 presentation and suspended satellites as well as other interactive games.
There was absolutely lots to do including playing with a remote control mini Mars rover, and watching some funny footage from the original Moon landing, as well as lots of interactive learning. There was also a great display of Heinz Beans cans which were all weighted according to what planet you were on.
The final part of the centre is a space astronaut cadet training area which includes a 3D space ride a bit like a ride from a Florida theme park, which should not be missed. There were also other challenges such as collecting as many space rocks as possible using a mechanical digger in a set time.
The National Space Centre is a great place for children to learn about the solar system, as there are a lot of interactive learning tools scattered around the centre, and even Lunar Jim sections for younger children. But don’t think it is only for children, as there is a lot here for adults as well.
Even the hand washing facilities in the toilets were futuristic as you put your hands in a hole in the wall and the soap is dispensed and then comes the water and then the dryer, all in one.
There is also the shop near the exit which stocks a range of astronomy gifts, learning toys and more.
Overall a great day out for astronomers young and old.