HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WL0X) - Infinity is expected to catapult Stennis Space Center to new heights. And in the process, it just may energize south Mississippi's tourism industry.
Infinity is the state of the art science and education center being built next to the I-10 welcome center in Hancock County. On Thursday, leaders from Mississippi and Louisiana broke ground on the nearly $40 million complex. Those leaders spent nearly a decade luring Infinity to Mississippi. Now that it's here, their hope is that it opens young minds to the endless opportunities in space.
John Wilson is Infinity's Education Program Development Director.
"We are incredibly excited about kicking off Mississippi's first interactive, state of the art science center," he told those gathered at the groundbreaking.
That center will be called 'Infinity.' The hope is that it becomes a museum where children who walk in wanting to be rock stars, walk out wanting to study rocks on Mars.
"There are some very daunting science challenges on the horizon," said Wilson. "And we must inspire the next generation to take up those challenges."
Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise is one of 18 people who serve on Infinity's board of directors.
"I'm particularly enamored with what it will provide for school children when they come on field trips," Haise said.
Now that the formal groundbreaking is out of the way, contractors can build the nearly $40 million, world class science museum. It will sit on the southside of I-10, at the Mississippi welcome center, just down the street from Stennis Space Center. Gene Goldman is the space center's new director.
"We're extremely excited to be part of the organization that helps to inspire youths, and inspires the next generation of explorers," Goldman told the crowd.
Mississippi contributed $10 million to Infinity, knowing the new science center could lure 400,000 people a year to an area that thrives on tourism. Rep. J.P. Compretta spoke on behalf of the state.
"I think today is one small step for Hancock County and one giant leap for the state of Mississippi," Compretta said.
Infinity should open in the fall of 2010.
The two year construction timetable was why Haise said, "It's the launch, I guess, of a very long journey."