It’s time to have fun and enjoy the accomplishments and importance of space in Las Cruces and the surrounding community. To celebrate all things space, volunteers have come together to create New Mexico’s first ever Space Festival. It will take place over three days and nights, April 12th to 14th, across three locations. The theme is “Making Space for Everyone.”
The festival kicks off on April 12th – the day of “Celebration.” On this day, events will be geared toward children and families in celebration of the anniversary of human space flight. Yuri’s Night, which has been celebrated worldwide since 2001, marks the date when the then USSR launched Yuri Gagarin into a single orbit around the Earth in 1961. Events will take place on the New Mexico State University campus, including an evening event organized for youth by NMSU’s Women in STEM (WiSTEM) group, a mobile planetarium in which people can experience and learn about the night sky, and a Tech Center featuring a flight simulation specifically tailored to space travel. There will also be educational NMSU Space Talks and stargazing. Las Cruces Public Schools are also planning events earlier in the week.
On Friday, April 13th, the day of “Raising Awareness,” some of the greatest minds in the area will gather for a Space Showcase at Mesilla Valley Mall. Representatives from NASA White Sands Test Facility, Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic, New Mexico Space History Museum, UTEP’s aerospace program, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and others will be featured. The Space Showcase will offer the perfect opportunity for budding astronauts, curious minds and science buffs to interact with and ask questions from experts in space travel, aerospace and space exploration. The evenings of the first two days will also include free space-themed movies at the Rio Grande Theater on Main St.
On Saturday, April 14th, the day of “Entertainment” will take place on the Plaza de Las Cruces and surrounding locations in the downtown area, and will be a full range of interactive events. Virgin Galactic will bring a full size replica of their suborbital SpaceShipTwo to the Albert Johnson Park, adjacent to Las Cruces City Hall. There will be many hands-on activities provided by ¡explora!, Insights El Paso Science Center, Asombro and Cruces Creative amongst others. Experts from the Space Showcase will be back on-hand to interact with attendees. The NMSU Atomic Aggies Rocket Club will display their competition rocket, New Mexico Space Grant will have their high altitude weather balloon used to observe the recent solar eclipse. There will be at least two Challenger Center Missions, including one open to adult members of the public for the first time, and a unique space pickleball game in the afternoon, plus a ‘space walk’, in which participants are encouraged to dress in their best space or alien costumes.
The Las Cruces Space Festival will provide an incredible opportunity for youth to learn about and get excited about space and for older generations to celebrate the impact that space has had in their daily lives. For all lovers of space and all those with a growing curiosity, the Space Festival will bring education, entertainment and fun together in one package, with some of the key organizations behind regional space activity involved, and it will be a one-of-a-kind event, said Festival organizers, who are also aiming to set up a space tour from Las Cruces to Spaceport America as part of the event. KTAL 101.5 Community Radio in Las Cruces will broadcast special features and interviews throughout the week of the Festival.
“We all benefit from space related activity and innovations, including cell phones, GPS and weather tracking, just to name a few,” said Jonathan Firth of Virgin Galactic, one of the festival’s partners. “There is already much space-related activity in New Mexico, and it’s set to increase dramatically over the coming years—especially with commercial space flights just around the corner. Many activities for the Festival are already confirmed, and we are now working on adding to them and confirming sponsors before April 12th.”
Event partners include New Mexico State University, City of Las Cruces, Visit Las Cruces, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, Las Cruces Public Schools, Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic, NASA White Sands Test Facility, Jacobs Technology, New Mexico Space Grant, Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region, KTAL Community Radio, Las Cruces Sun-News, Las Cruces Bulletin, Hotel Encanto, Las Cruces Challenger Learning Center, Insights El Paso Science Center, ¡explora!, Cruces Creatives, and the Rio Grande Theatre.