Years from now, when my grandchildren are taking their kids out to the spaceport to look at the spaceships come and go, the terminal they may visit could possibly look similar to the design introduced Wednesday for Virgin Galactic.
Space.com's Special Correspondent, Leonard David, has published a great article that you absolutely must read if you are at all interested in space tourism. He begins by laying the foundation for the story:
Architectural and engineering teams have begun shaping the look and feel of New Mexico's Spaceport America, taking the wraps off new images today that showcase the curb appeal of the sprawling main terminal and hangar at the futuristic facility. When the 100,000 square-foot (9,290 square-meter) facility is completed -- the centerpiece of the world's first, purpose-built, commercial spaceport -- the structures will serve as the primary operating base for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceliner, and also as the headquarters for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.If you thought that this space tourism deal was all just blue sky dreaming, the details of the Spaceport America Terminal and hangar seem to indicate that there is no doubt this is for real, baby:
The terminal and hangar facility will also provide room for aircraft and spacecraft, and Virgin Galactic's operations facilities, including pre-flight and post-flight facilities, administrative offices, and lounges. The spacious maintenance hangar can hold two White Knight Two carrier aircraft and five SpaceShipTwo spaceliners - vessels now under construction at Scaled Composites in Mojave, California. The terminal and hangar facility are projected to cost about $31 million, and will provide a "Destination Experience" for visitors to Spaceport America. Virgin Galactic intends to sign a 20-year lease for approximately 84,000 square feet (7,803 square meters) in the building.There is plenty more meat to this story, and as always, space.com has to be the first choice for anyone wanting to keep on top of the here-before-we-know-it space tourism industry. Make sure to go here and click to enlarge the small thumbnails down the right side of the page, to get a better look at the interior of Spaceport America, as well as the exterior elevations.
Simply amazing, and quite exciting. The only thing that stands in the way of space tourism becoming commonplace in our society is the price. If they can ever get the cost down to that of first-class airfare, we might just see this industry go crazy.
One final thought. I remember listening to a lecture by Burt Rutan at the University of Oregon here in Eugene, right after SpaceShipOne set the space record, the topic being...space tourism. He described in detail a day when we will see spaceliners launch into low orbit from gorgeous facilities, shut down their engines and coast effortlessly around the planet. After gliding through space for the majority of the route, the spaceliner's crew eases the ship back into our atmosphere on its way to a greaser landing many thousands of miles from their departure point. Unlike today's powered commercial flights that require a gazillion gallons of Jet-A and many, many hours to make the same trip, in a spaceliner, seriously long global flights become a fast and efficient no brainer.
And you can all but bet those global flights will launch from Spaceport America, a drop-dead beautiful oasis in the New Mexico desert.