StenniSphere Reopens In Hancock County

Hurricane Katrina wiped out many tourist attractions, but one popular spot for visitors re-opened Wednesday.

StenniSphere, the visitor and education center at Stennis Space Center, sustained a good bit of damage in the storm but repairs are finished along with some improvements.

Marcel Anderson of Waveland was the first visitor welcomed into the newly renovated space museum. He headed right to the International Space Station exhibit.

"Well, they've got the makings for a good salad here," Anderson said.

In the Space Station mock-up there's a micro-gravity vegetable garden, one of the many experiments being conducted in the real space station. The StenniSphere version gives visitors a look at life in space.

"It's amazing. I think they did a good job of putting it all back together. I'm glad it wasn't destroyed like my house was."

Katrina was a bit kinder to StenniSphere, but there was enough damage to keep the popular attraction closed for months.

"We're so happy to be open because we feel like it encourages our community that things are getting back to normal. It's an opportunity for our local people and the children who have lost so many activities," NASA Public Affairs Officer Linda Theobald said.

Eight-year-old Adon Warren of Petal agrees, saying, "It's just fun!"

"Then there are so many people that are here helping our communities, as you know, that are from all over the country. And this is an opportunity for them to learn about the role that Hancock County has played in America's Space program," Theobald said.

Michigan tourists Cindy and Ron Mortensen came South to see the devastation Hurricane Katrina left behind, and stumbled upon StenniSphere.

"We're fortunate to be here on the first day this opened and there was something to see," Ron Mortensen said.

StenniSphere is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10am-3pm. The tour is free and starts at the I-10 Welcome Center in Hancock County.

by Al Showers