On Monday, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority approved spending $9.5 million on lengthening the runway at Spaceport America and building a welcome center for tourists near Truth or Consequences.
The board approved an $8.5 million contract to A.S. Horner of Albuquerque, N.M., to extend the 10,000-foot runway to 12,000 feet. The extension is required to give Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo more space to land.
The board also approved a $1 million contract with Ashbaugh Construction Company for building a welcome center on a six-acre parcel in Truth or Consequences. Visitors will gather at the welcome center and be bused to the spaceport for tours.
The site is the best financial value for the state of New Mexico and the best location for a welcome center, with excellent proximity to and visibility from the I-25 highway, according to a PowerPoint presentation that NMSA Executive Director Christine Anderson gave to the board. The property is adjacent to Exit 79 and is pad ready for construction.
The spaceport authority rejected a proposal by Truth or Consequences for a downtown site that city officials said would bring more traffic to businesses there. NMSA officials said the site has a legal provision that prevents its use as a welcome center, a claim that city officials disputed. NMSA’s position was upheld on appeal.