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

(Newser) – 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.”

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.
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)
In this May 20, 2011 image, the roofline of Spaceport America blends into the landscape near Upham, NM.
In this May 20, 2011 image, the roofline of Spaceport America blends into the landscape near Upham, NM.   (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
This May 20, 2011 image shows the steel hangar doors at Spaceport America near Upham, NM.
This May 20, 2011 image shows the steel hangar doors at Spaceport America near Upham, NM.   (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
In this May 20, 2011 image, the San Andres Mountains and pieces of construction equipment are reflected in the glass windows of Spaceport America near Upham, NM.
In this May 20, 2011 image, the San Andres Mountains and pieces of construction equipment are reflected in the glass windows of Spaceport America near Upham, NM.   (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
This May 20, 2011 image shows dozens of metal panels that will be installed on the exterior of Spaceport America near Upham, NM.
This May 20, 2011 image shows dozens of metal panels that will be installed on the exterior of Spaceport America near Upham, NM.   (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
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