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Wednesday January 9th, 2013

City Continues Legacy of Support

On July 24th, 1973, former Alamogordo Mayor Dwight Ohlinger shared his vision of building an International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo with a group of local residents that included State Senator Aubrey Dunn, “the Fastest Man on Earth” Dr. John Paul Stapp and Dr. Ernst Steinhoff, one of the first German V-2 scientists to come to New Mexico after World War II.

The very next day, Aug. 1, the Chamber of Commerce established an Executive Committee. The group operated until May 3, 1974 when Gov. King installed the Governor’s Commission with Ohlinger as chairman. Until then, the city’s Executive Committee was able to pay the bills thanks to Jerry Yates, the Chamber of Commerce Committee of 50 chair. He secured a $2,000 donation for overhead, as well as the promotional material members created and the artist’s concept they presented to the Legislative Finance Committee in late 1973.

A little more than three years after Ohlinger dreamed of the idea, the Hall of Fame opened on Oct. 5, 1976 during the United States’ Bicentennial year. It was no coincidence that the date was Robert Goddard’s 94th birthday, as well as the 50th anniversary of Goddard’s first liquid-fueled rocket flight. Oct. 4 had been the 19th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik I flight, meaning the day the ISHF opened was the start of the 20th year of the Space Age. Thirty-seven years later, Ohlinger’s dream has evolved into the New Mexico Museum of Space History, which includes the Clyde W. Tombaugh IMAX Theater.

At the January 8, 2013, Alamogordo City Commission meeting, commissioners voted in favor of granting $300,000 in quality of life funds to the Museum for upgrades to the projection system in the Tombaugh Theater. The funding is contingent upon a $300,000 matching grant from the state. The upgrade is needed to replace projection equipment that has been in place since the theater was built in 1983. Without this upgrade, the theater would become all but obsolete within the next few years as the large format film producers switch completely to digital.

“On behalf of the Museum, our Governor’s Commission, and the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation, I would like to express our deepest appreciation to the Commission, and particularly to Mayor Susie Galea, for taking this important step in supporting the Museum and its mission,” said Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll. “The Commission’s vote of support for this grant funding honors the legacy of our community leaders who had the foresight to create this wonderful museum.”

The upgrade to the Tombaugh Theater’s projection system is one of many improvements Orwoll hopes to accomplish at the Museum complex. “This facility has been in a state of decline for nearly two decades as its budget was continually decreased, making it nearly impossible to keep up with every day maintenance, let alone bring in new exhibits or improve our facilities,” said Orwoll. “The show of support that the City has given us with this grant funding will provide important leverage as we work with the Legislature and various foundations and corporations on additional monies. Today we have allies in Santa Fe. The Secretary of Cultural Affairs, Veronica Gonzales, is keenly aware of our situation and has pledged to put our needs at the top of her agenda. Our local legislators and senators have been instrumental in making sure others are aware. Now they can say the community supports the museum, we need to support it too.”

The New Mexico Museum of Space History is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589.