Southwestern New Mexico Feature

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Space Tourism

Spaceport America. It may be hard to imagine as you gaze into the infinite blue of New Mexico's southern sky, but someday soon those wispy contrails you see lingering from rocket engines may be the residue of vehicles carrying tourists into Earth's orbit—and beyond.

In October 2005 the White Sands Missile Range hosted the first of a series of X Prize Cup competitions, aimed at enabling private industry to become involved in (relatively) economical space travel. Some of the launch technologies that resulted have been pivotal to the development, barely five years later, of the facility that will house Virgin Galactic and make space tourism a reality (though cash flow is more likely to come from suborbital satellite launches and payload cargo). Visitor centers in both Hatch and Truth or Consequences are planned to launch as soon as Spaceport flights are operational; bus tours that will originate from those centers are part of the program. But to get on board SpaceShipTwo, it will cost you around $200,000. 70 mi northwest of Las Cruces, 43 mi southeast of Truth or Consequences, Spaceport, 88012. www.spaceportamerica.com.

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