Inclusive New Mexico festival merges arts and scientific communities for future commercial space travel
By Karin Leperi
Great things come to those who are patient and the road to space here in New Mexico the last decade or so has been a tad slower than anticipated. Nowadays, that’s changing in a big way. The dream of Las Cruces – the gateway to New Mexico’s burgeoning space program – is finally taking hold. And with that, the dream of suborbital space travel by everyday citizens is no longer an elusive daydream but is one close-at-hand and on the verge of becoming reality.
One might say that the future of space travel is now.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that commercial space travel will only benefit educational institutions and scientists with doctoral degrees in rocket science, solid fuel propulsion, physics, chemistry, materials science and the like. While those specialties are obviously needed, commercial space travel taps into the talents of architects, artists, musicians, writers as well as chemists, engineers, mathematicians and astronomers. There is also room for planners and schedulers, operational managers, emergency crew, medical specialists, pilots, educators and of course, citizen astronauts.
Space is for everyone and the city of Las Cruces should know. After all, they are the “Gateway to Space and Spaceport America” – not only in New Mexico but for America. Plus, their strategic location in southern New Mexico crowns them as the gateway to space while establishing the city as a hub for partnering with other space-related agencies. From ongoing research at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), NASA White Sands Test Facility and New Mexico State University (NMSU) to common ground with the Very Large Array (VLA) and the near future space flights of Virgin Galactic at Spaceport America, Las Cruces wants to bring the commercial space program within reach of everyone.
2nd Annual Space Festival Celebrates Making Space for Everyone
As a lifelong lover of anything that flies – especially into space, I’m naturally excited to learn that Spaceport is kicking into high gear – preparing for a new chapter in space travel. The Las Cruces Space Festival scheduled for April 7-13, 2019, heralds that chapter.
With the theme “Making Space for Everyone,” the festival highlights educational activities in Las Cruces public schools and New Mexico State University. But it doesn’t stop there as the festival includes arts and light installations, readings, book signings, night-time star-gazing, Yuri’s Night celebration, space quizzes, space-related top-shelf movies, a space march and presentations by leaders and scientists in the field of space.
The Las Cruces Space Festival combines science and art for adults and kids, emphasizing that we are all a part of the future of space. According to Las Cruces Space Festival Coordinator Alice Carruth, “The Las Cruces Space Festival is consciously using art to bring space to new audiences. We are running two major art exhibitions- the Hubble-inspired ‘Our Place In Space- Las Cruces’, and in celebration of the Year of the Periodic Table, ‘Hand Made Light’. We are also including excerpts from two plays ‘Yuri’ by NMSU Assistant Professor Larissa Lury, and ‘Silent Sky’ (which tells the story of Henrietta Levitt’s pioneering work in Astronomy). We even have a performance piece by ‘Science Girl’s Lab’, aimed at encouraging young audiences to use science to solve problems.”
Space is for Girls Too!
The Space Festival encourages girls and women to be a part of space travel by providing women leaders, presenters and role models for aspiring astronauts and space-related occupations. Besides inclusive educational lesson plans in Las Cruces Public Schools and outreach efforts by NMSU, the following activities are geared toward girls:
- April 8 at 6:45 pm – Antonella Nota of the European Space Agency (ESA) presents ‘Our Place in Space’ at Southwest Electric Cooperative (SWEC)
- April 9 at 11:00 am – Dr. Emily Johnson presents on the geological significance of the Kilbourne Hole
- April 12 at 6:15 pm – Colleen Gino (MRO) presents on the small telescope at a major observatory at SWEC.
- April 12 at 7:45 pm – Alires Almon presentation on Space: Our Dream and Our Reality at the Rio Grande Theatre.
- April 13 from 10:00 to noon – Loretta Hall book signing
- April 13 at 2:30 pm – Science Girl’s Lab – Science Girl in Dr. Von Heister’s Hijinks’ performance at the Rio Grande.
Las Cruces Space Festival Schedule
The 2019 Las Cruces Space Festival is a multiple-day and multiple-location event that’s about having fun and learning more about commercial space travel. It’s also about space travel having opportunities for all types of skillsets, as well as for women and minorities. And it’s about backgrounds in science, engineering as well as the arts being vital and important to the future of space travel.
The Las Cruces Space Festival runs for one-week, from Sunday, April 7 through Saturday, April 13, 2019. Various presentations from space industry leaders and stargazing at White Sands and Organ Mountains to space-themed movies at the Rio Grande Theatre and art exhibitions throughout the Festival ensure a mix of both the arts and science. Always a crowd favorite, the Space Walk allows for the ultimate creative expression in crafting space-related costumes. It takes place on Friday, April 11th at 6:00 pm.
The festival kicks off on April 7 at Spaceport America, where an ‘Open House’ welcomes private pilot fly-ins. The theme is about “making space for everyone.” CEO Dan Hicks of Spaceport America makes a presentation and there is a book-signing by author Joseph Page. Rounding out the schedule are gallery tours, a Spaceport America Safety Team demonstration, Virgin Galactic presentation, dance performance, VLA presentation by Dr. Mark McKinnon, and a Systems Go rocket launch from the vertical launch area. Advance registration for Spaceport America is necessary due to tight security requirements.
The Spaceport America ‘Open House’ is followed by events in Las Cruces, where attendance is open to everyone. Starting on April 8, ‘Our Place in Space – Las Cruces’ opens in multiple locations, with lesson plans and programming aimed at stimulating space discussions with younger students to offering practical advice on pursuing science careers for older students. Las Cruces Public Schools, NMSU and local media are involved.
Another event you won’t want to miss is a celebration of “Yuri’s Night,” marking the date Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth. This has been celebrated worldwide since 2001, marking the 1961 date when the Russian cosmonaut launched into a single orbit around the Earth. The celebration will take place at Rio Grande. Also planned are multiple immersive Challenger Learning Center Missions, open to all ages.
The Price is Right
Best thing about the Las Cruces Space Festival is that it’s a free community event celebrating the past, present and future of space in New Mexico. “All our events are free to participate in, and open to all. We are also striving to provide information in English and Spanish at our art exhibitions,” says Las Cruces Space Festival Coordinator Alice Carruth. “We work with many partner organizations from across the community – ranging from the public schools, local universities and colleges, space industry, arts, and cultural groups, and many others – to provide an event for people of all ages and interests.”
From iconic space movies shown on a big theater screen at the Rio Grande Theatre, an open-house at Spaceport America to the crowd-pleaser Space Walk, the price is right and is “free” for everyone.
Here is a listing of the complimentary space-themed movies shown at the Rio Grande Theatre during the Festival week and include: (doors open at 6:00 pm unless otherwise noted)
Tuesday, April 9 – Apollo 13
Wednesday, April 10 – 2001: A Space Odyssey
Thursday, April 11– Contact
Saturday, April 13 – WALL-E (doors open at 11:00 am for a noon showing)
Saturday, April 13 – The Martian
Generous event donors that make Las Cruces Space Festival a reality
Sponsors: Barnett’s Las Cruces Harley Davidson, Bravo Mic Communications LLC, City of Las Cruces, Jacobs, LoveLasCruces.com, NMCO Creative Media, Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic, Visit Las Cruces, United Way
Partners: Arrowhead Center, Asombro Institute for Science Education, Challenger Learning Center, Cruces Creatives, European Space Agency (ESA), Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts (FLARE), Galactic Unite, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS), KTAL Radio 101.5 FM Las Cruces, Las Cruces Convention Center, Las Cruces Public Schools, Museum of Nature & Science, NASA, New Mexico Space Grant, New Mexico State University (NMSU), NMSU Astronomy, NMSU Geological Sciences, NMSU Physical Science Laboratory, NMSU Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (WiSTEM), New Mexico Tech Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO), Southwest Expeditions
Karin Leperi is an award-winning writer and photographer who loves everything about aviation and space. In a former life she served as a Flight Engineer onboard the military aircraft VC-131H, a two-engine turboprop.