HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Despite soaring travel costs and a country still recovering from an economic downturn, officials with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center said they are on target for ending 2013 on budget.
USSRC CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart said this is the first time in the last ten years the not-for-profit organization will finish the year on budget, in the black, and turn a profit.
"We have had a tremendous year, lots of visitors and we are happy with the work that has been done," Barnhart said.
Barnhart said some challenges looking forward could be continued maintenance for the dozens of space artifacts currently housed at the facility.
"That is a huge expense and we continue to look for ways to maintain them so we can keep them looking great for years to come," said Barnhart.
Barnhart said the nonprofit does not usually receive any state, local or national public funding annually. She said it relies on private donations and funds raised by attendance to the center.
The USSRC has started a new mobile exhibit program bringing the story of the Rocket City and space travel to destinations across the globe. In 2014, Barnhart said that will be a focus for the organization along with a renewed focus on aviation.
Since opening its doors in 1970, almost 16 million people have toured the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The vast majority of those visitors have been from out-of-state or from foreign nations, according to officials with USSRC.
Many of the more than 400,000 people who visit annually are school students on field trips to their future. The Space Center houses hundreds of pieces of rocket and space hardware valued in the tens of millions of dollars.
The museum, which achieved Smithsonian Institution Affiliate status in 2002, serves as a major repository for the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., having some 300 major artifacts on loan, according to the organization's website.