When Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam docked at Grand Turk last Friday her passengers were among the first to view a brand-new unique exhibit at the Grand Turk Cruise Center that commemorates the National Aeronautics & Space Administration’s (NASA) Mercury space program and the historic 1962 splashdown of the Friendship 7 capsule off the coast of Grand Turk. “Splashdown Grand Turk” is a 3,500-square-foot attraction celebrating the unique relationship of the American human spaceflight mission and its importance to Grand Turk’s history. Grand opening festivities were held before our arrival, with representatives from the Turks and Caicos Islands’ government, Carnival Corporation, and the Grand Turk Cruise Center in attendance. Special guest speakers included Janet E. Petro, deputy director of the John F. Kennedy Space Center and former NASA astronaut Winston Scott. Other special guests were students from local Grand Turk schools.
Located on the south side of the Grand Turk Cruise Center (when you exit the pier and pass through the duty-free shopping center, walk to your right), the free exhibit features replicas unique to the Mercury space program, including a scaled 20-foot-tall Atlas rocket and a full-size, three-dimensional replica of astronaut John Glenn in spacesuit, and, of course, a detailed replica of the Friendship 7 capsule, which splashed into the Atlantic in 1962, a few short miles from the island of Grand Turk. Storyboards at the exhibit depict the accomplishments of the NASA space program and detail the differences in space equipment of yesterday and today while offering an overview of the current space program and future plans.
“This exhibit together with the replica of the Friendship capsule at the entrance of the Grand Turk Airport will serve to educate and inform cruise guests, the citizens of Turks & Caicos and other visitors to the islands about this fascinating connection between Grand Turk and the early days of the Mercury space program,” said H.E. Governor Gordon Wetherell, governor of the Turks & Caicos Islands, BWI.
Opened by Carnival Corporation in 2006, the Grand Turk Cruise Center serves as a gateway to this unique destination and encompasses a state-of-the-art pier and a 14-acre complex offering a variety of shops and restaurants. The 2011 cruise season will bring 285 ship calls to the Grand Turk Cruise Center carrying approximately 625,000 visitors who will have an opportunity to learn more about Grand Turk’s involvement with the NASA space program.
For more information on the Grand Turk Cruise Center visit grandturkcc.com/. Additional information on the Mercury space program is available at nasa.gov/. When you visit Grand Turk, don’t forget your camera. Everyone wants their picture taken with John Glenn.