Wallops Island: Think Wild Ponies, Wildlife, NASA Rocket Launches

Marlene Crey

To plan a trip to NASA, you don't have to travel to Cape Canaveral to see rockets being launched into the sky -- we have our own NASA rocket launcher right here in Virginia: Wallops Island.

Located at the extreme northern part of Virginia's eastern shore, Wallops Island was once an outpost for launching mostly weather satellites, but it's now become known as the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport, an integral portion of the NASA program that will launch rockets with payloads into orbit destined for the International Space Station. The latitude and longitude make its coordinates one of the few places in the U.S. perfect for launching those particular satellites.

A visitor center/museum features hands-on exhibits, educational programs and launch viewings. You'll also learn about the history of the island and the science behind aeronautics -- and, of course, you can watch a rocket launch while standing on the rooftop.

One can't-miss exhibit is the Science On a Sphere, a room-sized global display system that uses computers to display planetary data on a six-foot sphere. You'll be shown atmospheric storms and how the climate changes on earth, as well as changing ocean temperature.

The best news yet is that it's all free -- free to watch a launch and free to enjoy the many projects, the planetarium, and exhibits at the visitor center. Mark your calendars for the next launch, June 10 at 2 a.m.

The visitor center is always open during launches, but doesn't officially open until June 15. Hours after that will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Wallops Island Visitor Center is located at Building J-17 Wallops Island, Virginia, about three hours from downtown D.C.

Wallops Island is also within driving distance to both the Assateague Wildlife Refuge -- known for its wild ponies -- and the Wallops Island Wildlife Refuge.

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