Checking Out the Virgin Galactic Terminal

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From time to time, as a travel journalist, I get a look behind the curtain. Last summer on a trip to Albuquerque I ventured south a couple hours to about 20 miles outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. This is where Spaceport America is being constructed.

Sounds like a rather out of the way place? Well, you’re going to space, if you are lucky enough to afford one of these planned flights, so really, what’s a trip to a remote area in New Mexico on top of all that? I haven’t purchased my ticket yet, but figure I’d wait until the shoulder season when the rates are lower. I hear coach is too crowded and unless it’s a Class Y ticket, you don’t even get miles for the trip. Pfft.

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Virgin Galactic has their terminal here, and just like at other large airports, other airlines — spacelines? — will have terminals here as well. I was surprised to find that the local county government had paid to build this place. But in fact many regional airports are publicly owned and the airlines themselves are tenants.

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Security was tight. Good luck getting past that stop sign.

Why New Mexico for space launches? Why not outside Cape Canaveral? Truth is, Cape Canaveral isn’t exactly ideal for launches. Remember all the scrubbed space missions of NASA due to weather? That isn’t an issue in this part of New Mexico where it is nearly always hot, dry, and clear. Plus the added altitude saves some money. Rockets aren’t exactly racking up mileage like a Prius. One mile less of fuel makes a difference as the launches continue.

New Mexico did in fact make a bid to work with NASA back in the day, but politics played into the decision to go from Florida. Plus, dropping rocket stages over Texas rather than the Atlantic Ocean probably wasn’t a great idea either, depending on who you ask.

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The tour was short, as the terminal was empty at the time, and there was little more than the big runway. But simple pleasures for simple minds.

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I once read that writing about music was like dancing for architecture. I tested that theory. Both possible. Totally different.

It’s rather surreal to see the website and commercials for Virgin Galactic, eerily like the sort of thing one sees in old sci-fi films. And for the average person, an actual space flight is as equally impossible and may be for a very long time. Bummer.

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