June 20, 2009

Spaceport America Begins Construction

Construction of Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built spaceport designed specifically for space-bound commercial and fee-paying passengers, commenced Friday in New Mexico.

Gov. Bill Richardson said the spaceport, located on a remote high-desert range, is only possible because of investments on the part of the state and Virgin Galactic, which is putting over $300 million into developing the space launch system that will operate from the site.

"We took a risk, we gambled and we won," he said.

Virgin Galactic, plans to provide sub-orbital space flights for the public to the tune of $200,000 per ride.

"After all of the hard work to get this project off the ground, it is gratifying to see Spaceport America finally become a reality," Richardson said.

"This groundbreaking ceremony is an important step toward our goal of being at the forefront of a vibrant new, commercial space industry."

Spaceport America says construction will start with a 10,000 feet runway at the site, followed by a terminal and hangar facility later in the year, Spaceport America said.

The project is expected to wrap up within 18-24 months, and Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn says the firm has already booked around 300 spots in advance, and will likely begin sending out tourists from the spaceport within two years.

Groundbreaking began with 10 members of the New Mexican historical re-enactment group Sociedad de la Entrada, marching through the desert dressed as Spanish conquistadors. After the officials gave their speeches, a patch of dirt was ceremonially cleared. The governor then placed a miniature shovel full of the dirt into a model rocket that was symbolically launched into the sky.

There were approximately 460 people shuttled to the groundbreaking on tour buses. They snapped photographs of this momentous occasion enthusiastically, believing it to have historic implications.

One member of Sociedad de la Entrada Roberto Valdez of Española was not as excited. He says he is disenchanted by other industries that have been established in New Mexico like the movie industry, nuclear industry and the national laboratories, all of which exploited the state's resources without any significant benefit to native residents.

"I remain skeptical about the spaceport," he said. "As the saying goes: 'Behind every spearhead, there's a shaft.' Behind every endeavor, somebody gets the short end of the stick."


Image Caption: Terminal Hanger Concept, Spaceport America


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