The Grand Turk Cruise Center (GTCC) is celebrating the island’s unique place in history during Space Exploration Week March 19-22 which closely coincides with the 50th anniversary of astronaut John Glenn’s splashdown of the Friendship 7 space capsule off the island’s coast in 1962.  The splashdown represented the United States’ first successful manned orbit of the earth.

The Space Exploration Week festivities kicked off on Monday at the GTCC with the unveiling of a series of newly commissioned murals depicting the past, present and future of space exploration.  The murals serve as a central component of “Splashdown Grand Turk,” a 3,500-square-foot attraction at the Grand Turk Cruise Center that celebrates the relationship of the American spaceflight mission and its importance to the island’s history.

The free exhibit features amazing 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 also depict the accomplishments of the NASA space program and detail the differences in space equipment of yesterday.

The event at the Grand Turk Cruise Center served to kick off a series of Space Exploration Week activities, including a reception attended by John F. Kennedy Space Center Deputy Director Janet Petro and retired NASA Mercury Program Radar Technician Alan Rakofsky, and officials from Carnival and Turks & Caicos Islands at the governor’s residence at Waterloo, Grand Turk. Other activities include the John Glenn Arts and Science Festival at the public library in Grand Turk and the renaming of a local airport approach road to John Glenn Drive.  The event culminates in a fireworks display and a party on Governor’s Beach later this week.

Opened by Carnival Corporation & plc in 2006, the Grand Turk Cruise Center serves as a gateway to this unique destination and encompasses a state-of-the-art pier and an 18-acre complex offering a variety of shops and restaurants.  The 2012 cruise season will include 285 ship calls bringing 675,000 visitors to the island.