One thing is clear, being a space buccaneer of our time doesn't come cheaply nor without courage of your convictions.
Richard Branson, founder of everything Virgin including Virgin Galactic, noted in his SpaceShipTwo-unveiling speech
that the first PanAm flights across the Atlantic cost $40,000 apiece -- in defense of his company's hefty rocket-ticket prices.
Admittedly, I have had a healthy skepticism for the proclaimed speed at which prowess will be claimed at Spaceport America by Virgin, or anyone else at any price.
However, my recent Virgin Galactic postings to DCF, prompted by an incidental encounter of a Virgin Galactic terminal rendering in Dwell (see my first post
on this topic), have checked in on the impressive progress to happen south of here -- in the margins of our peripheral vision and doubt.
As far as Virgin Galactic is concerned, the company is committed, sooner than later, to succeeding at Spaceport America and at a spaceport in Sweden, with thousands of eager and affordably elite customers signed on. Without question, Branson and Burt Rutan
(link to Rutan's phenomenal TED: Ideas Worth Spreading presentation) are two of the world's most can-do people.
The reported progress is tough to miss, despite some of the hiccups with the early unrelated rocket launches at the Spaceport. Watching Rutan's TED presentation launches the imagination and delivers challenges, facts, and actions behind our future in space, illuminating Spaceport America's potential. (Better yet, watch the TED video with your kids or grandkids.)
What it all means for us Albuquerqueans and New Mexicans economically, culturally, entrepreneurially, environmentally, and even spiritually are other questions for each of us answer.
If I could, I would take the trip. Most likely, though, I will have to settle for visiting the Spaceport America souvenir shop some day soon. (See you there?)
I had the pleasure of knowing the main champion of the New Mexico spaceport concept, Col. Len Sugerman, USAF (Ret.)
(Len left us in 2006 at age 86). We served together on the Physical Sciences Institute board of directors at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
Len was a magical Harry Potteresque wizard of a mad scientist man who positively gleamed when he spoke of the possibilities of his spaceport. This evidentiary photo of Len was taken during the dedication of the Sugerman Space Grant Building
at New Mexico State University in October 2004. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips) (click to enlarge Len's photo for his full beam).
For nearly two decades, the only visible sign of Len's dream was the lonely roadside sign he had officially installed along I-25 north of Las Cruces announcing the "Future Home of the New Mexico Spaceport."
Ever the doubter, I smiled and chuckled every time I saw the sign driving to and from Las Cruces for PSI board meetings and other business. Len would always cajole us half-believers with his unquenchable spirit.
As history reminds us, intrepid visionaries like Len, Sir Richard, and Burt usually have the last laugh. Indeed, commercial suborbital space flight, as Rutan attests, is worthy of repeating Neil Armstrong's moon quote, "One small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind.
Len was a believer. His enthusiasms remain contagious and inspirational. If wishes are horses, Len rides tall in the heavens. Amen, Len!