Space Center Houston Sets Saturn V Rocket Aglow With 'Galaxy Lights'

Space Center Houston's new Galaxy Lights, presented by Reliant, features projections that bring NASA's Saturn V rocket to life, as a part of the most advanced light display in Texas.
Space Center Houston's new Galaxy Lights, presented by Reliant, features projections that bring NASA's Saturn V rocket to life, as a part of the most advanced light display in Texas. (Image credit:

Space Center Houston is shining some festive light on NASA's iconography with a glowing nighttime display that answers the question: How many holiday bulbs does it take to cover the length of a Saturn V rocket?

Galaxy Lights, presented by Reliant, celebrates the season and space exploration with what Space Center Houston calls "the most interactive and technologically advanced light display in Texas."

"Galaxy Lights transforms and illuminates Space Center Houston with stunning space-themed installations, with LED lights, 3D projections and interactive light displays," said William Harris, president and CEO of the science and space exploration learning center, which serves as the official visitor center for NASA's Johnson Space Center. "We're excited to open this experience to the public on Saturday, Nov. 16th."

Related: Holidays in Space: An Astronaut Photo Album

More than 5,000 lights set aglow the outline of a full-size Saturn V rocket as part of Space Center Houston's Galaxy Lights, presented by Reliant, now running through Jan. 5, 2020. (Image credit:

With more than 750,000 lights spanning more than one million square feet (93,000 square meters), Galaxy Lights features both indoor and outdoor light displays, including the exterior of the building housing one of NASA's last remaining Saturn V rockets, which is now illuminated by 5,000 lights forming the full-length outline of the 363-foot-long (110 meter) moon booster.

"You're going to board the NASA tram that's going to travel through an LED light tunnel with more than 250,000 lights synchronized with holiday music, and you're also going to see 3D light projections at Rocket Park and watch each stage of the Saturn V take off with a storyline on the rocket with light displays. It is going to be very, very exciting," said Harris.

A technology-driven, kinetic art light display plays as part of Galaxy Lights inside Space Center Houston's main plaza. (Image credit:

Galaxy Lights's outdoor displays also include a 35-foot-tall (11-meter) shooting star installation, shimmering globes illustrating the planets of the solar system, an International Space Station light sculpture and a towering, walk-through display of NASA's next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift booster.

Indoors, suspended from the ceiling of Space Center Houston's main plaza, is a technology-driven, kinetic light show of colorful LED orbs, which shift patterns to the tune of holiday music.

"It's pretty incredible to see," said Leanne Schneider, the director of community relations at Reliant Energy. "One moment you're looking at the orbs forming an American flag, then they shift and you're looking at a sleigh or the candy cane. I think that's pretty cool. I've never seen anything like that."

A walkthrough light sculpture of NASA's Space Launch System lifts off in Johnson Space Center's Rocket Park as part of Galaxy Lights at Space Center Houston. (Image credit:

Galaxy Lights, presented by Reliant, also includes lighted selfie stations, seasonal snacks and "Holidays in Space," an original 15-minute film showing in-space footage and new interviews with astronauts talking about celebrating the holidays off the planet.

"One of the things that I think is really neat about holidays in space is that we can actually celebrate holidays in space, and we can do it in a way that's familiar to us as well," says astronaut Nicole Stott in "Holidays in Space."

Galaxy Lights, presented by Reliant, runs 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. CST through Jan. 5 (with the exception of Thanksgiving, Dec. 12, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Regular admission is $19.95 (guests age 3 and younger enter for free). Discounts are available to Space Center Houston members and those who take part in the "Reliant Wednesdays" Salvation Army toy drive.

Space Center Houston is not alone in celebrating the season with space displays. NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida has announced its own "Holidays in Space," featuring 10,000 sparkling lights and a retro-futuristic theme, running from Dec. 13 to 31.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.