It is four months until the start of the 2020 Las Cruces Space Festival, and we are pleased to announce a community project to restore the Tortugas Observatory, in partnership with New Mexico State University (NMSU).
The Tortugas Mountain Observatory (TMO) was founded in 1963 under the observation of Clyde Tombaugh and his colleagues from NMSU. It is equipped with a 1967 Boller and Chivens 24” reflector telescope. For decades the observatory was primarily used for imaging and monitoring of planetary targets in support of NASA’s Voyager space probes. During this time the observatory was under the direction of Dr. Reta Beebe, with many of the observations taken by Scott Murrell. Nowadays, TMO is operated both remotely and autonomously for NMSU undergraduate courses, small research projects, and monitoring of variable stars for the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO).
In 2010, a partnership with the AAVSO was established and several members helped to fund upgrades to the telescope. Students from NMSU Engineering contributed to the work needed to allow remote and autonomous observation.
The current interior and exterior of the Tortugas observatory are in dire disrepair. This has resulted in an eye sore, obscuring the view from the top of the Tortugas Mountain which is used for general recreation and as an observation point over the city of Las Cruces. This is a popular hiking spot and with some attention, this could become a premier tourist destination for the city of Las Cruces that celebrates the space history in the region.
The building is owned and operated by New Mexico State University and sits on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property (A/ Tortugas Mountain) next to a Tortugas Tribal Shrine. The proposal for renovation is led by NMSU Astronomy and The Las Cruces Space Festival (LCSF). Future plans include the possibility of working with LCPS and enabling excursions to visit the observatory,
The facilities department at NMSU will manage the renovation of the exterior and interior of the observatory. The minimum cost of the renovation is $65,000 for the exterior work and removal of asbestos in the interior of the building to make it safe. NMSU is raising funds to achieve this work, but additional funds will enable the possibility of more extensive renovations and improved capabilities.
This is a great opportunity to give back to this community and take pride in our public landmarks. We hope you will consider donating to this incredible project this Giving Tuesday.
The Las Cruces Space Festival was born out of a volunteer spirit by individuals passionate about the history, current opportunities and future possibilities for the space industry in our area. An overarching goal of the Festival is to keep it free and to “make space for everyone”.
All donations and sponsorship made to the Las Cruces Space Festival are made to our fiscal sponsor- the United Way of Southwest New Mexico and held in a separate account for us. When we have payments for festival needs in the budget, they will make those payments. The United Way is not charging the festival a management fee.
We are very much appreciative of this service offered by the United Way of Southwest New Mexico. With this gift from them, your donations to this festival are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
If you or your company are interested in sponsoring the 2020 Las Cruces Space Festival, our Executive team will be happy to meet with you to discuss our sponsorship levels which can be found here.
The Las Cruces Space Festival is an annual celebration to recognize space-related activity and interest in southern New Mexico and beyond. We aim to raise awareness in our community and beyond of space-related activity in the region- past, present and future. We are working with the Las Cruces Public Schools and New Mexico State University to educate and inspire youth of all ages. We celebrate the anniversary of human spaceflight, known as Yuri’s Night, which lands on Easter Sunday in 2020. The Festival aims to provide entertainment and fun for all as well as enable an economic impact in Doña Ana and Sierra Counties. We are also looking to support the development and needs of a sustainable Spaceport.
Event partners include New Mexico State University, City of Las Cruces, Visit Las Cruces, Las Cruces Public Schools, Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic, NASA White Sands Test Facility, Jacobs Technology, New Mexico Space Grant, NASA White Sands Complex, KTAL Community Radio, Las Cruces Challenger Learning Center, Insights El Paso Science Center, and the Rio Grande Theatre.