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Alabama's US Space & Rocket Center may close forever unless it raises $1.5 million in the next 3 months

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, may be forced to close. By Alicia Lee, CNN

(CNN) -- The US Space & Rocket Center has inspired dreams of scientific exploration and space travel for decades. But now, it's in danger of closing its doors for good because of coronavirus pandemic's financial hits.

The museum in Huntsville, Alabama, which houses the legendary Saturn V rocket, is usually the state's top paid tourist attraction. But since the pandemic began, it has lost two-thirds of its revenue, according to a news release.

"We are now struggling for our very survival," John Nerger, chairman of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission, said at a news conference Tuesday.

If the center closes, so would its beloved Space Camp, which has allowed both children and adults from around the world to experience what it's like to be an astronaut.

To prevent this from happening, officials announced the "Save Space Camp" drive with a goal of raising $1.5 million in donations to keep the museum open past October and to reopen the camp next April.

And the donations have already been pouring in. As of Wednesday night, the GoFundMe had raised nearly $450,000, with people commenting how much the center and Space Camp means to them and their families.

"The summer I spent at Space Academy in the late 90's was a life-changing experience. Please, Save Space Camp! We need more programs like this for young people, more than ever. I am forever grateful for the opportunity, and I hope it can continue to inspire America's kids," one person commented.

Another proud Space Camp alumna? CNN's own Brooke Baldwin.

"I was a Space Camp kid in 1993. I begged and begged and begged my parents to please send me here to Huntsville, Alabama and I got to live my dream," Baldwin said in 2018 when she had the opportunity to return.

"i think at the end of the day, it's about these kids and belief. Space camp believes in them," she added.

Since launching in 1982, Space Camp has been attended by nearly a million people from over 150 countries. It's inspired hundreds of thousands of successful careers in aerospace, engineering, science, education and other fields, organizers said in the news release. 10 Space Camp alumni have even become real astronauts.

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