The fourth Las Cruces Space Festival is coming back in-person this week with telescopes, art, activities and more to celebrate the influence of space research in southern New Mexico.
From April 7-10, events will be held at various locations in Las Cruces as part of the festival. Alice Carruth with the festival said organizers are expecting about 2,500 people to participate over the span of the four-day event. This is an increase from the 2,000 people who enjoyed the 2019 festival — the last time the event was held in-person. Organizers canceled the festival in 2020 due to COVID-19 and held activities virtually in 2021.
One event this year is already booked — the Spaceport America Open House. Those who RSVP'd will get a free tour of the facility on April 10. However, spaces have been filled for the past few weeks, Carruth said. There are 600 parking spaces at the spaceport and people were encouraged to carpool. She said organizers expect about 1,500 people at the open house alone.
There are still many space festival activities to look forward to.
'Across Space' art show
Throughout the four-day festival, a pop-up art exhibit will be featured at the Mesilla Valley Mall, 700 S. Telshor Blvd. “Across Space” is a collaboration between the festival and the Doña Ana Art Council. Artwork depicting space exploration, astronomical art, the solar system, modern space technology and more from local artists will be featured, as well as the 30 finalists from the 2022 poster contest — won by Alice D., a student at Sonoma Elementary.
According to a news release from DAAC, the show will consist of over 45 works from 26 artists using a range of mediums including painting, photography and video.
"Artists have been interested in celestial bodies since the invention of the telescope and well before that," said Karen S. Conley, program manager at DAAC and curator of “Across Space.” “The exhibition features paintings of planets in our Solar System and recent technological advances in space exploration. We are very excited to be having the show in person at the mall and can't wait for the public to see it."
The art show will be in the former FootAction USA space inside the mall, next to Zales Jewelry. Times include:
- April 7-8: 1-7 p.m.
- April 9: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
- April 10: noon-5 p.m.
Space movies and quiz night
Participants can venture into space from the comfort of a movie theatre the next few days with four free movie screenings. The lineup consists of “Gravity,” “Interstellar,” “Explorers” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” all showing at the Rio Grande Theatre in downtown Las Cruces, at 211 N. Main St. Showings are at 7 p.m. April 7-9, along with a noon showing of “Explorers" on April 9.
Doors open an hour before the showings and concessions will be available for viewers.
Those with space knowledge are encouraged to head down to Broken Spoke Taphouse, 302 S. Main St., for “The Big Space Quiz” from 5:30 to 7 p.m. April 8. Teams of up to eight people are able to enter and participants will be tested on scientific and astronomical facts. The winning team will walk away with a manual telescope — a Celestron StarSense Explorer DX 130AZ.
Solar telescopes at the Museum of Nature and Science
Take a safe look at the sun April 9 with solar telescopes and binoculars from Sunspot Observatory located within the Lincoln National Forest. Heidi Sanchez, education and public outreach coordinator for the observatory, will be at the Museum of Nature and Science, 411 N. Main St., from 10 a.m. to noon April 9.
Kids can also enjoy DIY space puzzles and air-powered rocket activities provided by the museum.
Moongazing on the Plaza de Las Cruces
Later in the day April 9, head to the Plaza de Las Cruces, 700 N. Main St., to take a closer look at the moon. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., the Astronomical Society of Las Cruces will be hosting a viewing with various telescopes. Participants will have the chance to get a look at the moon as well as bright planets such as Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Participants will also be entered into a chance to win a Celestron telescope.
Challenger Learning Center mission simulations
Two mission simulations will be open April 9 at the Challenger Learning Center, 505 S. Main St. At 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. people can take part in a free space mission simulation. Participants will take on the roles of scientist, engineer, mission control operator and more while working together to achieve various mission goals.
All events are free and open to the public. Also on Saturday, the Las Cruces Space Festival and its partners are hosting “Make Space For Everyone,” with various booths set up for demonstrations, interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. NASA, Jacobs, Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic, the New Mexico Museum of Space History and more will be set up on from 9 a.m. to noon at the Plaza de Las Cruces during the Farmers & Crafts Market of Las Cruces.
These organizations will also be set up for a career night from 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 7 at the Mesilla Valley Mall. Representatives will be on hand to discuss scholarships and high school and college internships. They will also have exhibits on display.
Swingin' into space
The Mesilla Valley Swing Band will be giving a performance "specially dedicated to NASA" at 11 a.m. April 9 at the Plaza de Las Cruces stage.
The program, under the direction of Jim Helder, will feature the music of many of the great big bands: Woody Herman, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich and more. Karen Proctor will perform her vocal renditions of Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé hits such as “Come Fly With Me” and “Let’s Fall in Love.”
The swing band will also perform a new arrangement of the “Cantina Band” song from the Star Wars movie.
The Mesilla Valley Swing Band is an all volunteer community group and there is no charge for this performance.