Sir Richard Branson Opens Virgin Galactic Spaceport

The dreams of space flight are being rekindled as Sir Richard Branson officially opens the first commercial spaceport in New Mexico.

“Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic,” he said at the event, dubbed “Keys to a New Dawn.”

Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez

“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,” Branson continued. “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 spaceport is based in the southern New Mexico desert and is named Spaceport America.

The ever-flamboyant Sir Richard introduced the the spaceport by rappelling down with his two children, Sam and Holly, from the distinctive roof to dedicate the new spaceport with New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. The 120,000 square-foot building, which resembles a spaceship right out of a 1960’s science fiction movie, will house Virgin Galactic’s hangars, astronaut training facilities, mission control, and friends and family areas. They christened the terminal “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space.”

Virgin Galactic’s two craft, the the SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo, flew over the spaceport much to the delight of audiences. In addition to Sir Richard and Governor Martinez, the winner of a contest Virgin Galactic ran on Twitter was also one of the event’s attendees. Sir

Sir Richard and his two children are slated to be on Virgin Galactic’s first mission some time in the future.

If you want to go up into space on Virgin Galactic, you only need about $200,000 burning a hole in your pocket. If you can’t afford that, you only have to put $20,000 of that down when you book your ticket for the suborbital flight.

After training for two days for your launch, you’ll finally get to go into space, if only for a while. In contrast to being launched from the ground using rockets like the Space Shuttle program did, the WhiteKnightTwo plane will take you up to 50,000 feet, while the SpaceShipTwo drops down and blasts off into space. Launching from the air like this is much safer this way, Virgin Galactic’s website says.

Those of us who have neither the money or the time to go into space will have to be content watching other people do so on the Internet, but perhaps someday it will become cheap enough for everyone to leave the Earth, as any shlub can book a regular airplane flight these days.

For Sir Richard Branson’s other aquatic venture, see our post on Virgin Oceanic. Don’t miss our post on what astronauts do when they’re not in space.