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The 13 Best Virtual Space Exhibits in the World

You can go to infinity and beyond without getting off your sofa...

Sydney,AustraliaAnton Winter/Getty Images

Let’s visit space!

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to spend a day inside the International Space Station or wanted to learn more about the coolest inventions NASA ever made you might be surprised to learn the answers can be found in the comfort of your own home. Modern technology will take you into space and help you explore aerospace museums and spacecraft with just a couple of taps of your keyboard. So, sit back and get ready to blast off to virtual adventures in space. Afterward, here are more virtual day trips you can take online.

The National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC.Jon Hicks/Getty Images

National Air And Space Museum

If you want to visit the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum but can’t make it to Washington, D.C., don’t fret. You can take the trip from your living room through its virtual exhibit, Air and Space Anywhere. The site features virtual tours of the museum through Google street view, 3D images of spacecraft such as the Appollo 11 Command Module, videos, podcasts, and lessons divided by age group and a host of activities and games to keep the whole family entertained. The National Air And Space Museum is also one of the best science museums in the world.

screenshot of international space station tour videovia nasa.gov

International Space Station

Unless you’re an astronaut, you probably won’t get a chance to visit the International Space Station in person, but thanks to NASA, you can still take an International Space Station tour with Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams. In a series of videos, Commander Williams will take you inside different segments of the Space Station including the observation deck, the sleeping quarters, hygiene center, and even the Russian center. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it’s like to live in outer space. After you take the virtual tour, find out 20 more mind-blowing facts about the International Space Station.

johnson space center field trip videovia boeingfutureu.com

Johnson Space Center

Boeing and Discovery Education have teamed up to take you on a virtual field trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The full video is just under half an hour but viewers have the option of breaking it into chapters including a virtual tour of the Starliner/CST 100, a Space Mission Simulator, or an inside look at exhibits dedicated to life in outer space. The site also has materials for educators and numerous videos dedicated to Boeing’s work developing spacecraft and exploring outer space. The Johnson Space Center was home to some of the most famous space expeditions of all time, including the miraculous Apollo 13 mission.

muesum of flight interiorvia museumofflight.org

The Museum Of Flight

Located in Seattle, The Museum of Flight is dedicated to making sure its facility is accessible, even to people who can’t visit in person. The Museum of Flight At Home program allows you to explore its fascinating collections while relaxing in your most comfortable chair. Take virtual 3D tours of aircraft such as the NASA Space Shuttle trainer, learn about air and spacecraft in its collection, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and download fun, educational family activities. The website is a blast for adults and also a great way to spend quality time with teens.

Hubble Space Telescope in orbit around Earth.Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

Hubble Space Telescope

There is perhaps no telescope as famous as the Hubble Space Telescope—and for good reason. The telescope is almost 44-feet long —that’s about as big as a school bus. If you’ve ever wondered what types of images it captures or what it takes to control it from the ground, you’ll want to check out the online activities at Hubble Inspires. Options include a 360-degree tour of the spacecraft that houses the telescope or the command center, a podcast, videos, and an image gallery. See if you can spot all 14 constellations in the night sky.

Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics in Kaluga, RussiaSergei Karpukhin/Getty Images

Museum of Cosmonautics

The Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics may be located in Moscow, but that doesn’t mean you have to head overseas to take a walk down its iconic hallways. You can take a fun, informative virtual walkthrough of the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics via Google street view. Check out the history of the Soviet space program by climbing aboard rockets, exploring artifacts, and seeing how space suits have changed over the decades. You’ll also love learning about these animals that made it to space before you did.

Griffith Observatory - Los Angeles, California, USAdiegograndi/Getty Images

Griffith Observatory

The famous planetarium scene in the movie La La Land was filmed at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. In real life, you can visit the gorgeous building for free telescope viewings of the evening sky. If you aren’t able to make it to California any time soon, its Weekly Sky Report will keep you updated with images of the moon, planets, stars, and celestial shapes captured through the telescope alongside information about how the public can observe upcoming events like meteor showers. Here are more iconic movie sets you can visit in real life.

1960's Russian Soyuz space craft at the National Space Centre in Leicester, UKAshley Cooper/Getty Images

National Space Centre

The National Space Centre in Leicester, England has an incredible collection of space memorabilia, spacecraft, space suits, items from the space race, and more. You can check it out without changing out of your pajamas via the National Space Centre Collections Online. Be sure to check out its star object, an Apollo 17 moon rock, from the last crewed exhibition to the surface of the moon. The virtual exhibit of the moon rock features photos and a video clip of astronaut Gene Cernan discussing what it was like to harvest moon rocks during the mission. Speaking of the moon, you won’t believe these spooky (but fascinating) facts you never knew about the moon.

NASA John H Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, Cleveland, Ohio, USADouglas Sacha/Getty Images

Glenn Research Center

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, NASA’s Glenn Research Center is a fascinating, educational place to spend the day if you’re interested in history, space, or technology. Luckily, you can explore the facility from virtually anyplace in the world as long as you have access to an Internet connection. NASA Glenn Virtual Tours invites you to wander inside a supersonic wind tunnel, check out the Space Environments Complex, and explore the Flight Research Hangar. If this whets your appetite for a real-life trip in the future, these are the NASA sites every space nerd must visit.

virgingalacticvia virgingalactic.com

Virgin Galactic

There are a lot of things you probably didn’t know about space, including the fact that private people can travel there, for a price. Companies like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will fly you into space. Tickets are rumored to start at about $250,000 per person. If this is a bit out of your budget, you can still head over to the Virgin Galactic website for 360-degree or virtual reality tours of spacecraft, videos, a kid’s corner full of activities, and more. Here, Richard Branson, and other billionaires, reveal the underrated skill you really need to succeed (and it’s not intelligence).

exoplanets.nasa.govvia exoplanets.nasa.gov

Exoplanet Travel Bureau

If a trip to the moon or the International Space Station is still a little too close to Earth to suit your fancy, NASA has you covered with the Exoplanet Travel Bureau. It will take you as far away from our humble planet as you can get. Step inside interactive, 3D- artist renderings of unexplored planets outside the solar system based on imagination and data collected by NASA. You can explore gorgeously depicted planets made of lava, sand, stone, and more. The best part is you don’t even have to take your shoes off. You’ll be fascinated by these 13 NASA discoveries that changed science textbooks.

nasa kids club homepagevia nasa.gov

NASA Kids’ Club

If your kids are tired of being at home, NASA is coming to the rescue. NASA Kids’ Club is full of so many fun activities it’s the next best thing to traveling into space. Kids can play virtual games, download storybooks, check out pictures of space, learn about astronauts, and more. There’s even a special section for parents and educators who want to integrate lessons into the fun for kids in kindergarten through fourth grade. Parenting in a pandemic can be extra challenging. Here’s how a guidance counselor is keeping her kids calm about coronavirus.

U.S. Space & Rocket CenterBuyenlarge/Getty Images

U.S. Space & Rocket Center

If you’re ever in Huntsville, Alabama, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center should be at the top of your list for a visit. If you don’t live nearby you can still experience the magic through its Science Never Stops video series. Explore hydroponic gardens and learn how food is grown in space, check out the surface of the moon, and explore exhibits such as the Skylab oxygen tank. If you’re vising in real-life be sure to check out the Adult Space Academy, which is on our all-American bucket list of the most iconic adventures in every state.

Tamara Gane
Tamara Gane is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest covering travel, lifestyle, history, and culture. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, NPR, Al Jazeera, Wine Enthusiast, Lonely Planet, HuffPost Food, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @TamaraGane