Imagine yourself in the cockpit of a spacecraft taking off from a two mile long runway in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Imagine the heartbreaking, dizzying effects of weightlessness in space.
At Spaceport America in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, nothing is left to the imagination. Follow me and learn how to experience takeoff, zero gravity and other fantastic activities at America’s first spaceport.
Final Frontier Tours hosted my husband and I for our Spaceport America tour. However, all opinions are mine. Our experience in the space industry and manned space programs enriched our experience with Spaceport America.
First, a note on Virgin Galactic and Astronaut Sturckow
On May 22, 2021, Virgin Galactic launched VSS. successfully completed the first manned space flight unit from the mother ship, VMS eve, in flight. VSS unit reached Mach 3, reached space at an altitude of 55.45 miles, then slid back to Earth on the same runway as the takeoff. CJ Sturckow, commander, and Dave Mackay, controlled VSS unit, and Kelly Latimer and Michael Masucci piloted VMS eve. Stuckow is the first person who ever flew into space from three different countries.
Sir Richard Branson is the visionary behind Virgin Galactic. He and his team are responsible for this historic achievement to build the first commercial spaceport and to promote the first manned space flight from the spaceport. Branson wants to make space travel as accessible as air travel is today.
When I heard about the recent successful flight, I remembered Neil Armstrong’s statement when he landed on the moon. âOne small step for man, one big leap for mankind.â This new aviation milestone is a significant step forward for Virgin Galactic and New Mexico’s manned spaceflight.
1. How to visit Spaceport America and important things to know
The world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, Spaceport America, is an FAA licensed launch complex and active testing facility. It is not open to the public and launches are not open to the public. Private tours are pre-arranged online on Spaceport America’s website through Final Frontier Tours.
When we were visiting the US Southwest, our tour started with Final Frontier Tours at the Visit Las Cruces Visitor Center. We boarded a 10-passenger van for the 57-mile drive to the Spaceport America facility and enjoyed the narration about the area.
For example, did you know that New Mexico is the leading manufacturer of pecans in the United States? The Hatch Valley, famous for its unique terroir that adds to the taste and texture of the coveted Hatch chillies, is just 35 miles from Spaceport America.
The best thing about our tour was that there were only 10 participants present which allowed a lot of interaction with our guide. We didn’t feel rushed or pushed, as is often the case in a tour group. This tour was an authentic experience that you cannot get anywhere else. Spaceport America is a true commercial space launch facility, yet it offers education with lots of hands-on and fun experiences. Curtis, our guide, was omnipresent to photograph us at the best photo opportunities.
School programs are an essential experience at Spaceport America. They promote education with a focus on natural sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (MINT). You want people to get excited about space and develop skills necessary for careers in space operations.
Pro tips: Tours begin at the Spaceport America Visitor Center in downtown Truth or Consequences, the Visit Las Cruces office in Las Cruces, or directly at the Spaceport America facility. Be sure to confirm the starting location for your tour. Also note that Final Frontier Tours can cancel tours with fewer than seven passengers. Spaceport America may also cancel them due to launch activity at the facility. Tours sell out several weeks in advance, so plan your desired date in advance.
2. The gateway to space
Our slow approach to the Space Operations Center (SOC) felt like an experience from a fictional space film. The huge open space enveloped a strange triple-pane building. The tension was almost palpable as the scene unfolded before us.
From space, the facility looks like an alien landing guide. Abandoned streets with names like Asteroid Beltway are not marked on maps.
3. At the beginning
The entrance to Spaceport America is with a huge sculpture called. marked genesis, created by the artist Otto Rigan. The 11,000 pound steel sculpture with inlaid glass and mirror elements was intended to represent the stars in the summer sky above the spaceport.
4. Go this route
The lack of features on the outer walls of the Astronaut Walk aroused curiosity about what was to come. Almost invisible doors enabled access to the system.
5. Gateway Gallery
The Gateway Gallery is filled with light, space, art and the GShock Trainer. I wanted to run to every kiosk and study the mural like a child.
The Trip to the top Mural is a timeline from prehistoric times to the present day and beyond. Brief interpretative descriptions of the history and culture of the region are shown in the mural and can be found on four different touchscreens in the exhibition.
6. GShock trainers and the right stuff
The elaborate heart of the Gateway Gallery is the Multi-Axis Trainer (MAT), also known as GShock (G stands for Gravitation) Centrifugal Trainer. The trainer is a yaw, roll, and pitch gimbal rig that simulates the extreme forces astronauts are exposed to during launch, maneuvers, and reentry. The astronauts experience a disorientation to space on re-entry if they are in a tumbling rotation.
Some hardened souls on our tour showed that they had the right stuff and took a spin at the MAT. I wasn’t one of them.
7. Space Control Center (SOC)
The Mission Control Room is the heart of space flight operations. Air traffic controllers and other ground personnel, the problem solving team, manage flights from before take-off to landing.
One can easily imagine the preparations for launch day as we touched the desktop, computers, clock faces and microphone. It was impressive to be in the decision-making seat.
My husband supported many shuttle missions at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Houston. Note the loving expression on his face for this fantastic experience at Spaceport America.
8. Fire fighting on the ground
Extensive demonstrations by the chief firefighter gave his audience an up-close and unique experience. From extremely loud alarms on oxygen tanks to real, workable dummies, we’ve gained a deep understanding of the dangers and responsibilities during a fire emergency.
Excited to climb into the cabin of the huge fire truck, I looked around in amazement. Like a spaceship, the dashboard had a dizzying array of gauges, levers, and signals.
Another feature of this fantastic fire brigade tour was putting on the heavy and unwieldy fire brigade uniform – boots, jacket and helmet.
9. Huge meeting room
The huge room where spacecraft assembly takes place was empty during our visit. A large observation window in the cavernous space helped us to visualize the size and size of the aircraft.
10. Altitude and runway take-off simulation
While the tour van limited our cruising altitude on Mother Earth, access to almost every corner of Spaceport America made us aware of the remoteness of the facility.
As a fitting conclusion to our fantastic Spaceport America experience, Curtis spun the van engine at full blast, approached the threshold, parked the vehicle on the center line of the 12,000 x 200 foot runway, and released the brake. I surely thought we would flee as this line quickly disappeared under the speeding vehicle. Unfortunately, we stayed earthbound while our imaginations soared into space.
11. Naughty virgin galactic plane
Virgin Galactic’s outdoor exhibit is a testament to the mission and vision of the future.
It’s easy to imagine a space traveler at Spaceport America when reaching for the stars in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
New Mexico is at the forefront and at the forefront of innovation. The country has a robust economy and leverages the region’s scientific potential.
Spaceport America is 18,000 acres adjacent to the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, including 6,000 square miles of no-fly airspace. That is, from the surface to the infinite.
There are many accommodation options in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Well-known chain hotels, boutique hotels and house rentals offer good options. Make Las Cruces your base as the focal point between Truth or Consequences, Hatch, and White Sands National Park. If you’re in the area, plan a trip to White Sands National Park. It is like no other place on earth. Gypsum sand in undulating dunes consumed 275 square miles of desert. The ranger programs in the park include sunset walks every evening and guided full moon hikes, which are offered several times a year. It is only 82 miles from Las Cruces and is an amazing experience.