Boarding for Mars?

Brief by Central Staff

Modern Life – January 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

If you drive south from Salida and take state Highway 17, you’ll definitely encounter a UFO observation site. And there are some who say you might encounter a UFO, too.

And if you keep driving south, soon you might encounter a take-off site — not for UFOs, but for space-bound tourists.

The state of New Mexico plans to spend about $200 million to build a spaceport near the White Sands Missile Range, 45 miles northeast of Las Cruces. Gov. Bill Richardson has been working with entrepreneur Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic Airlines), and the plan is for testing to start in 2007, with commercial flights beginning in 2008 or 2009.

These would be 2½-hour suborbital excursions that would rise about 65 miles above the earth’s surface. Passengers would be weightless for five minutes while tethered to their seats.

Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, said the fare will be $200,000, and that 150 people have already signed contracts and put down deposits of at least $20,000.

Maybe they’ll wave at us on the ground.