Looking up at the night sky and dreaming of spaceflight is something that most kids are familiar with – even big kids. And yet only 549 people in the entire breadth of human history have ever been to space. Nevertheless, in an age where everything from hoverboards to touchscreens are becoming everyday realities, it’s little wonder that spaceflight is becoming less of a dream and more of a hope. Enter: Spaceport America.
Found in the wide-open expanse of New Mexico’s high-desert range, not far from Albuquerque, Spaceport America is the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport and home to Virgin Galactic HQ. Although you can’t hop on the next flight to Mars just yet, the exhibits, simulators and multimedia theatre shuttles that visitors can enjoy as part of the brand new Spaceport America Experience are undoubtedly the next best thing.
The Experience starts in the Spaceport’s official Visitor Center in the fantastically named New Mexican city of Truth or Consequences; this is where tickets are bought, merchandise is coveted, and the fun starts. Think you’ve got what it takes to go to space? Then don’t miss the chance to find out how you’d handle “Gs” (gravitational units) while in charge of the flight wheel in the Nav Knowledge & Space Medicine exhibit. And kids will love the chance to create their own space missions in the KidSpaceport exhibit.
Even the journey to the Spaceport itself is packed with information and great sights and scenery – keep an eye out for the GENESIS sculpture on your way into the Spaceport complex. Not that you’d miss it; commissioned by the state’s Department of Cultural Affairs and designed by artist Otto Rigan, this steel and cast-glass sculpture weighs in at 2.5 tonnes and stands at 23 feet high and 40 feet wide.
Inside, the Spaceport Experience turns into a wannabe astronaut’s dream. You can jump in the G-Shock simulator to find out what it might feel like to be an astronaut in flight, learn what to pack for a trip to space, protect your spaceships from debris, and even chat to the Spaceport crewmembers and take a journey down the runway. Plus, history buffs are sure to love the comprehensive exhibit documenting and detailing the area’s exciting history, from the dinosaurs to the present day, through interactive iPads to ancient artefacts on loan from the US Forest Service and the Geronimo Springs Museum.
The Spaceport America Experience may only last four hours, but the chance to be part of the dawn of the space age is a memory that will last much longer.
Planning a trip to Albuquerque? Our codeshare arrangement with Delta makes it easy for you to travel all around North America, bringing your trip to Spaceport America well within reach.
Have you been on the Spaceport America Experience? What was your favourite part of the tour? Tell us in the comments below.
Written by Giverny Tattersfield