View From the Plaza

Touring Space from New Mexico: Spaceport America

Much has been written about Spaceport America and Richard Branson’s plans for Virgin Galactic to take travelers into space from the facility located just west of US Army White Sands Missile Range in Sierra County, New Mexico…  but I had yet to visit it myself.

LF_jennyspaceport

I had my chance last week to tour the Gateway to Space and it’s a pretty amazing experience to see such a beautiful building surrounded by nothing but New Mexico desert as far as the eye can see. Spaceport America is owned by the State of New Mexico and the Gateway to Space was built to be the headquarters of the world’s first ‘commercial passenger spaceline’, Virgin Galactic.  The building contains 110,000 square feet of space with room for astronaut training rooms, lounges, and a central super hangar. Designed by an international team that included the famous British architect, Norman Foster, the building is LEED Gold certified and has already won many awards.

Spaceport America, New Mexico. Photo by Jordan Guenther

Spaceport America, New Mexico. Photo by Jordan Guenther

 

The runway is 200 feet by 12,000 feet and can accommodate the largest planes in the world. It contains 10 acres of concrete, 4.5 feet thick. The largest tenant is Virgin Galactic, but Elon Musk’s SpaceX signed a lease at Spaceport America last spring and hopes to begin test launching rockets.

 

Photo by Jordan Guenther

Photo by Jordan Guenther

Interested in buying a ticket to space? Virgin Galactic has already sold 700 tickets and there are 86,000 people on the waiting list.  What will those lucky 700 ticket holders get to experience? Something very few people ever have. “Space” is defined as 62 miles above earth’s sea level – the Karman line represents the boundary line between earth’s atmosphere and space.  Flights will travel 70 miles above the earth and travelers will get to see the earth’s curvature from that distance. The body will experience 3.5 g’s of force going up and 6 g’s coming down.

Group photo of our tour of Spaceport America.

Group photo of our tour of Spaceport America.

 

Virgin Galactic hopes to launch its first flight at the end of this year. Richard Branson and his two children will be the first passengers on that flight.  I am terrified of heights and do not even like to fly in an airplane so the very thought of space travel gives me heart palpitations – and not in a good way but bravo to those 86,000 brave souls on the waiting list who are more intrepid than I.

7 Responses to “Touring Space from New Mexico: Spaceport America”

  1. Andy Ritch

    Very informative and hopeful for those who wish to travel in space. I assume La Fonda’s Bell Tower is as far off the ground that you really wish to get. I will be there soon myself.

    Reply
    • Jenny Kimball

      Yes though even on the Bell Tower, I will not get very close to the edge. Creeps me out so you can just imagine the thought of space travel to me. Terrifying!

      Reply
      • Andy Ritch

        You can sit at our table (wherever) and we will hold you in place. Absolutely no fear of heights. Just a lovely view.

        Reply
  2. Steve Wimmer

    You betcha I would go. I have flown on the Concorde.

    Why should I deny myself this?

    Oh, what’s that you say up there, Quaker feelings of guilt on wasting money

    Oh maybe the price will go down

    But the facility was a fabulous visit combined with my visit to the Trinity Site

    It can be done in a full day trip from Santa Fe

    Reply
    • Jenny Kimball

      Good to know it can be done in a one day trip from Santa Fe. I never had a chance or the budget to fly the Concorde.

      Reply

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