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SUBORBITAL

Spaceport America Experience

Visitor center opens to public, multiple weekly tours offered

by ELVA K. ÖSTERREICH



spaceport

Low to the ground, the Gateway to Space building blends with the surrounding desert to make a minimal impact on the existing landscape. (All photos by Elva K. Österreich)



Opening the door to wonder, Spaceport America has taken one more step in opening up accessibility to New Mexicans as well as tourists.

On June 24 a visitor’s center and tour jump-off point opened during a ribbon cutting at its location in Truth or Consequences. The facility is located in the center of town in a building, built in the 1930s, which has been used for multiple purposes through the years and is on the state Historic Register.

spaceship
A full-size replica of the spaceship still being built by Virgin Galactic gives perspective to the Gateway to Space building hanger which will be home to the company’s commercial space visitor program.

Renovations to the building have added a gift shop, tour counter and interactive displays to the building creating pleasant, airy, New Mexico style visitor’s center.

During the opening, George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company talked about the impact of commercial spaceflight on future generations.

“So I’m really excited about this moment in time,” Whitesides said. “This is a day where we have taken another concrete step forward into opening a path to space for all and this community, New Mexico, is going to be at the center of this amazing progression.

“This is going to be the pathway through which people come and travel to see something that has historically never been present in our world before which is regular commercial space travel for humanity.

Christine Anderson, Spaceport America CEO, reiterated his excitement.

“We wanted Spaceport America to be a place where the public can have a hands-on, authentic and fun experience inside a real commercial space launch facility – an experience you can’t get anywhere else,” Anderson said. “To that end, we have created the Spaceport America Experience so that our guests will learn more about space travel, about Spaceport America, and about New Mexico’s role in enabling commercial space.”

The experience includes a trip out to the spaceport in a comfortable bus with a knowledgeable tour guide who spends the approximately 50-minute drive taking guests on a journey through New Mexico history with the help of video clips.

spaceport 2
The doors of the Gateway to Space hangar slide open to allow access to officials and visitors during a June 24 tour of the facility.

The bus travels through the Jornada del Muerto, alongside historical railroad tracks and through Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch to get to the spaceport which appears in the distance, low and close to the landscape as it was designed. The now iconic Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building has earned a LEED gold rating for its environmentally friendly design.

Once arriving at the Gateway to Space, guests take short stroll up the Astronaut Walk, entering the building where more interactive space related displays are featured and people can experience the G-Shock simulator which subjects would-be astronauts to rapid acceleration comparable to what an actual astronaut might feel in flight. A large bay window offers a view of the massive hangar where Virgin Galactic space vehicles will be housed in the future.

spaceport
Mark and Rose Bleth with Follow the Sun tours and Christine Anderson, CEO of Spaceport America; joined by officials from the area to cut the Spaceport America visitor center ribbon June 24.

Spaceport America is the first FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) licensed commercial spaceport that was built specifically to be a commercial spaceport. Anderson said the facility serves as model for future spaceports across the country. Prior to Spaceport America, there were no standards to work by, they set the standards for others to follow.

The opening kicks off official tours, offered by Follow the Sun, with residents of Doña Ana and Sierra counties getting a break in the tour costs.




Tours leave from the visitor center at 301 S. Foch St. in T or C several days a week at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. General admission is $44.99 for adults who book online in advance, and $29.99 for ages 18 and under. The cost is $24.99 for residents of Doña Ana County and Sierra County. Visit spaceportamerica.com/experience for more information or to book a tour. Entry to the visitor’s center is free.

 

spaceport

The Spaceport Operations Center, run by the New Mexico Space Authority,
is the hub of the facility houses emergency services and operations managers.





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