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Touring Spaceport America

By guest correspondent Suzanne Carlstedt

Visitors to Sierra County sometimes ask, “How do I get to the Spaceport?” The answer is: on a tour bus.

Security requirements limit access to the Spaceport to supervised tour groups. Tours depart from the Spaceport America Visitor Center at 301 S. Foch in downtown Truth or Consequences. Check out the exhibits at the Visitor Center (admission is free) before you board the bus or after you return from the Spaceport.

You can also find a wealth of information on other area attractions at the Geronimo Trail Visitor Center, just down the hall in the same building. The Visitor Center is open daily 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Spaceport America tour lasts approximately 4 hours. On the ride out, you will hear and see information about the history and geography of the area, beginning in prehistoric times, when an inland ocean covered much of the area. Videos cover the history of the people in the area and the rigors of travel on the Jornada del Muerto. Your tour guide points out Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch as the bus passes by. (Tours to the Armendaris are currently available from the Sierra Grande Lodge, which is just around the corner from the Visitor Center.)

The entrance to the Spaceport is adorned with a new 40-foot metal sculpture called Genesis by artist Otto Rigan, who was selected from over 200 artists who submitted proposals. Embedded pieces of glass sparkle like stars under the sunny New Mexico skies. Check out the names on the street signs as you tour the property, and the cattle grazing nearby.

The Genesis sculpture outside Spaceport America

The bus pulls up in front of the Gateway to Space building, where guests disembark and walk up the Astronaut Walk into the Gateway Gallery. There is ample time to explore exhibits, play interactive games, and if you feel up to it, try a ride on the G force simulator. A window in the gallery overlooks the hangar, where a replica of SpaceshipTwo currently resides.

Astronaut Walk at Spaceport America

Gforce simulator at Spaceport America

displays in the Spaceport America

Back onto the bus, and you continue to the Spaceport Operations Center, also referred to as the SOC. You get a look at the offices and the mission control area above, and then continue into the garage space holding the state of the art firefighting equipment. Firefighters on site answer questions about their work and the equipment.

Spaceport Operations Center

Spaceport America Fire Truck

Next on the agenda is a ride out onto the 12,000 foot runway, where you’ll have chance to get off the bus and take photos. The tour guide will take your picture if you wish.

Spaceport America Runway
Spaceport America Runway

The final stop is back at the Gateway to Space building, on the opposite side from where you previously entered. There’s another opportunity for pictures, and then the bus departs for the return trip to Truth or Consequences. Videos on the history of space travel and its ties to New Mexico, and on the city of Truth or Consequences, highlight the return trip.

Tours are available on Saturdays, departing from the Visitor Center promptly at 9am. You should arrive at least 15 minutes early to check in for your tour. Tours are subject to change or cancellation due to mission control requirements. Tour schedule cannot be guaranteed without booking 24 hours in advance.

Spaceport America Visitor Center

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