Have Geeklets, Will Travel: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

Education Space & Astronomy Technology
Wallops Island by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr
Wallops Island by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Welcome back to Have Geeklets, Will Travel, a summer travel series that will help you think up cool travel plans that will appeal to both kids and adults. From geocaching expeditions in your backyard to factory tours in far-flung states, we’ll be providing ideas all summer long to get you out of your house and on the road for great adventures.

For 12 years, we’ve been holding Wallops Island as our rainy day activity. After year after year of cloudless sky, we wondered if we’d ever get to the NASA visitor’s center. But our last trip to Chincoteague, Virginia found us driving over the causeway with the window wipers going full blast as we finally cashed in to see what happens just a few miles from our favorite vacation spot.

The Wallops Island facility has been in use since 1945 and is part of NASA’s orbital and suborbital research program. The staff of 1000 have overseen 16,000 launches of rockets and high altitude balloons since its inception. This means that you have a pretty good chance of getting to witness a rocket launch if you travel over to Chincoteague. In fact, there is one scheduled to go today between 6 am and 10 am.

The visitor’s center is across the road from the actual facility which is visible if you go upstairs to the observation deck. The center includes a movie theater where we saw two films — one on the inner workings of the Wallops Island facility and another on stars, a few hands-on exhibits such as air rockets (yes, I got mine to hit the top), and plenty of background information on space travel. Admission is free, and you can easily fill 2 to 3 hours on a rainy day. Before you go, make sure you check out the NASA kids club online.

The center also hosts plenty of special events, including launch space for rocket enthusiasts and kid-friendly programming.

Now that we’ve explored Wallops Island, we’ll plan a trip around a launch next summer instead of waiting for the next rainy day.

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