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Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez at the dedication ceremony  (Source: space.com)
Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez held a dedication ceremony for the new terminal this week

Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Group, launched the world's first commercial space line at a dedication ceremony in southern New Mexico this week alongside New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.

Virgin Galactic, a company within Branson's Virgin Group that will offer sub-orbital spaceflights to the public, space science missions and launches of small satellites, will provide space tourism from Spaceport America in a desert in New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic and New Mexico officials reached an agreement to build the $209 million spaceport six years ago. Branson hoped the first flight would take place in 2007, but delays have pushed it until 2011.

Approximately 800 guests, 150 of which have already purchased tickets for Virgin Galactic flights, attended the dedication ceremony to watch the flight of jet-powered cargo aircraft WhiteKnightTwo and spacecraft SpaceShipTwo. At the ceremony, Branson officially named the spaceline terminal the "Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space."

"Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic," said Branson. "We are here with a group of incredible people who are helping us lead the way in creating one of the most important new industrial sectors of the 21st century. We've never wavered in our commitment to the monumental task of pioneering safe, affordable and clean access to space, or to demonstrate that we mean business at each step along the way."

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space is a combined terminal and hangar facility with the capacity to hold five SpaceShipTwo vehicles and two WhiteKnightTwo vehicles. It will also hold a mission control center, astronaut preparation facility and a friends and family area. The building is 120,000 square feet and meets LEED Gold standards for environmental quality.

Branson and his two children, Sam and Holly, will be the first commercial passengers on the SpaceShipTwo.

"For me, my children and our ever growing community of future astronauts, many of whom are with us today, standing in front of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space as it glimmers majestically under the New Mexican sun brings our space adventure so close we can almost taste it," said Branson.


Sources: BBC News, Virgin Galactic



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RE: Crisis?!
By twhittet on 10/18/2011 12:20:59 PM , Rating: 2
For the most part, I agree - I'd rather the world's rich come to the US to spend rather than going elsewhere.

I do sometimes feel a little bad that so much money is spent on something non-tangible though. It is an experience, but experiences cannot be inherited, they cannot be passed on, they cannot become part of an infrastructure to support future generations. In this way, it does feel that the money could be better spent, but that $ can still "trickle down" to other important uses at least.

The world has a lot of rich people - the US needs more reasons for those people to spend $ here.


RE: Crisis?!
By maven81 on 10/18/2011 1:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
The way I see it this particular endeavor does create a space launch infrastructure though. If you or me are ever going to fly into space, that infrastructure has to be built somehow. This is like the dawn of public air travel, first the flights are something that only the rich can afford, but eventually if the industry takes off prices will come down to the point where even people who aren't super rich can buy a ticket. This is currently the only way it can be done. Of all the things the rich could be spending money on this one actually benefits the rest of us. Just think, they can be using that money to buy a yacht instead, which benefits no one except the yacht building industry, much of which is not based in the US anyway.


RE: Crisis?!
By twhittet on 10/18/2011 2:30:41 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I'm not sure offhand that space travel "benefits" anyone that much, though the money spent on R&D should lead to further improvements and discoveries - including those related to other areas.

If only we could get the rich interested in nuclear technology! Is there a way we can market the fountain of youth through cold fusion?


RE: Crisis?!
By Paj on 10/19/2011 9:35:26 AM , Rating: 2
Yep. A thriving space infrastructure will be crucial in the coming century - and bringing launch costs down with re-usable, spaceplane type designs like this one are the key to this.

As this accelerates it will open entirely new industries. Once carrying cargo into orbit becomes cheap, we can start doing amazing things. Building larger craft in orbit that can capture and mine asteroids, to name but one. Microgravity materials science and construction is another with huge possibilities.


"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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