First 'Spaceport' Coming to New Mexico

But project is late and getting expensive
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2011 2:37 PM CDT
First 'Spaceport' Coming to New Mexico
This May 20, 2011 image shows the customer walkway and viewing area above the hangar where Virgin Galactic will store spacecraft at Spaceport America near Upham, NM.   (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Now that the shuttle's blasted off for the last time, attention is turning to the private space industry, and NPR has found an interesting piece of that puzzle: America’s first spaceport. The structure, under construction in a New Mexico desert, aims to be something like an airport for spaceships, and it’s already signed up Virgin Galactic as its first client. The site has a lot of advantages—it’s sparsely populated, its airspace is clear, and it’s a mile above sea level.

“We have a saying around there,” a spokesman says: “The first mile of space is free.” But the project has met with controversy. It’s already late and over-budget, and the government, which has spent $200 million on it, wants private companies to pay the rest. One county commissioner says they’re having buyer’s remorse. “It was very glamorous and exciting. And there was a lot of promises on jobs,” she says. “We’re still waiting.” (More Virgin Galactic stories.)

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