The dream of a functioning spaceport where spaceships take off and land like it’s no big deal is closer than ever before. But if the barren, empty Spaceport America is any indication, we’ve still got a long way to go.
Constructed in the New Mexico desert, the facility billing itself as the world’s first commercial spaceport was supposed to be the first step on our path to science fiction future, but a number of setbacks and unforeseen disasters mean that this galactic transit hub is eerily quiet. The majority of the construction on the multi-million dollar facility was completed by 2012, with the large terminal building dominating the landscape of the spaceport, along with the 12,000-foot runway. By 2013 both Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, two of the largest players in the commercial space travel business had become tenants of the port, and it seemed like things were looking up.
Unfortunately, in October 2014, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo broke up in flight, killing one of the pilots and jeopardizing the future of the company’s projects, and, by extension, the spaceport itself. Virgin Galactic is now saying that their commercial flights will not be able to begin until some time in 2016 at the very earliest, but given the millions of dollars a year it takes to keep the port open, this may be too late. At least they’ve still got SpaceX.
The hangar and runways are noticeably empty, with only the visitor’s center really teeming with any activity. Currently, visitors can buy tickets for tours of the site, but tickets to the stars will have to wait.