Spaceport America’s visitor center featuring interactive exhibits is now open about 35 miles away from the futuristic hangar and runway.

New Mexico Spaceport Authority executive director Christine Anderson and local officials gathered Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. An open house was being held Thursday.

The center is located in Truth or Consequences’ historic district and will serve as a launch point for tourists interested in Spaceport America.

Truth or Consequences Mayor Sandra Whitehead said the visitor center is expected to be an economic boon for her community.

While it’s unclear when anchor tenant Virgin Galactic will begin commercial space flights from Spaceport America, officials have said test flights of the company’s rocket-powered spaceship are expected to resume later this year.

Dozens of people boarded buses at the visitor center Wednesday and took a ride out to the spaceport for a tour of the nearly half-billion-dollar, taxpayer-financed facility.

“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 told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “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 tours also offer a chance for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to show off what it has built since ground was first broken six years ago.

In that time, spaceport has hosted nearly two dozen vertical launches, flights of Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two carrier plane and commercial photo shoots for auto and motorcycle manufacturers.

Some lawmakers have criticized the endeavor, saying no more tax dollars should be spent to support the spaceport as it works to attract more tenants.

While Wednesday marked the official launch of tourism and marketing of the Spaceport America brand, key to the spaceport’s success is the continued alliance with Virgin Galactic.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, said the company’s commitment to commercial spaceflight in New Mexico has not wavered despite a crash of its rocket ship last year over the Mojave desert during a test flight.

Tickets to fly with Virgin Galactic are $250,000. About 700 people have signed up.


Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News,

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Photo Credit: From left, Mark and Rose Bleth, Christine Anderson, CEO of Spaceport America, Truth or Consequences Mayor Sandra Whitehead and Truth or Consequences Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Green ribbon cutting ceremony marking the opening of Spaceport America's visitor center in Truth or Consequences, N.M., Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Jett Loe / The Las Cruces Sun-News via AP