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NASA and Walt Disney have started construction on a tourist park at the Johnson Space Center in an attempt to increase interest in space exploration.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held May 28 on a $70 million visitors center that will extol the greatness of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's past and its vision of the future of space travel.The center, being built on 123 acres of empty land, will incorporate artifacts from earlier NASA missions, such as the Apollo moon flights, and exhibits that give visitors a sense of how feels to be in space, spokesman John McLeaish told Reuters.

Walt Disney Imagineering designed the park - called Space Center Houston - which is expected to be completed by the fall of 1992.

McLeaish said the center "is not a museum and it's not a theme park," but more like Disney's futuristic Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla.

"This will take you into the next century," he said.

McLeaish said NASA has come under no criticism for permitting part of the 1,640-acre Johnson Space Center, home of Mission Control, to be used for a tourist center.

He said an estimated 2 million to 3 million people are expected to visit the center annually.