Last week business magnate Richard Branson took New Mexico and air travel to new heights with the dedication of the main terminal hangar facility of “Spaceport America.”
The sleek and futuristic spaceport outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico will serve as Virgin Galactic‘s hub for its new commercial space flight operations. UK-based Foster + Partners teamed up with URS Corporation to design the cutting-edge space center, and construction began in mid-2009. Since then, dedication ceremonies have been ongoing as new elements of the center have been completed and revealed to the soon-to-be astronauts, press, and proud residents of New Mexico.
Image: Jeff Foust/Flickr
For a mere $200,000 (including a $20,000 reservation deposit) per person, you too can play astronaut for a day. Since plans for Virgin’s new space venture were announced back in 2005, over 400 amateur astronauts have already booked their seats. Following 2-3 days of preparation and training, guests will be catapulted to altitudes nearing 50,000 feet at speeds of up to 2500 mph during the 2-1/2 hour flight, according to the company’s website.
State and local officials are hoping the state-funded $200 million project will help to boost tourism in the Land of Enchantment, and being the first of its kind, the space center has already captured the attention of tourists and space fanatics worldwide. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez stood alongside Virgin’s Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides to commemorate the center’s most recent addition last week. The new terminal hangar facility will house two launch planes and five rocket planes along with mission control and preparation facilities for the suborbital flights. And, as if serving as a portal to space isn’t impressive enough, the center’s innovative design and green building strategies are also setting examples for forward-thinking designers and architects around the globe.
It’s 2011, and while we may still not have that whole “flying-car” thing down, Virgin has stepped way up and literally taken things to a whole new level – why fly a car when you can fly a rocket-plane?