Space-tourism dream edges toward reality in New Mexico

Space-tourism dream edges toward reality in New Mexico
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SANTA FE, N.M. — British billionaire Richard Branson is taking another concrete step toward offering rides into the close reaches of space for paying passengers.

Branson announced Friday that Virgin Galactic will immediately begin shifting operations from California to a spaceport and specialized runway in the New Mexico desert in final preparations for commercial flights.

He says Virgin Galactic’s development and testing program has advanced enough to make the move, which will continue through the summer.

In February, a new version of Virgin Galactic’s winged craft SpaceShipTwo soared at three times the speed of sound to an altitude of nearly 56 miles (99 kilometres) in a test flight over Southern California.

New Mexico has been anticipating the arrival of space tourism for more than a decade. Taxpayers have invested over $200 million in Spaceport America’s specialized launch and landing facilities.

Morgan Lee, The Associated Press

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