As one of the most heavily attended museums in the United States, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is in the distinguished company of the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, both in New York City.
The Museum houses the Burke Baker Planetarium, Wortham IMAX® Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center and over a dozen permanent exhibit areas that examine astronomy, space science, Native Americans, paleontology, energy, chemistry, gems and minerals, seashells, Texas wildlife and more. In addition, the museum frequently presents traveling exhibitions on a variety of topics. The Museum also maintains two satellite facilities: The George Observatory in Fort Bend County, which houses one of the largest telescopes in the country that is available for public viewing; and The Woodlands Xploration Station, which has exhibits on dinosaurs; mineralogy; exotic, live insects and more.
The Museum is also a major science learning center with over a half million school children visiting annually, including every fourth grade and eighth grade class in the Houston Independent School District. Just one of many unique educational opportunities available to these students and others is the Challenger Learning Center, the first in a national network, which allows students to experience the teamwork necessary to complete a variety of space tasks. Modeled after NASA, the two-part center houses Mission Control on the Lower Level, which is linked via monitors, microphones and computers to a space simulator located in the Museum’s penthouse.