Spaceport America

New Mexico

New Mexico has been hurling objects out beyond the stratosphere since 1947, when the first missile was launched from the rolling dunes of White Sands, courtesy of NASA's Werner von Braun. The next big thing? Space tourism. In 2006 the world's first commercial spaceport got the green light from state lawmakers, with the hope that private spacecraft takeoff from the desert 30 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences by 2011. Hmmm. Engaging small-group tours explore the property.

These multi-hour guided excursions typically depart from the Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway Visitor Center in Truth or Consequences, which also serves as a visitor center and waiting room for the tours. Once at the Spaceport you'll take a ride in a G-force machine, climb aboard hi-tech fire trucks (c'mon, everybody loves a firetruck!), stop for photos on the 2.7-mile-long 'spaceway' and learn about planned launches – they say by the end of 2019! An interesting historic twist? The spaceway runs parallel to the Camino Real, a trading route developed and heavily used by intrepid Spanish explorers and pioneers in the 1600s.

As of early 2019, almost no flights by the main tenants, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, have taken off (most suborbital launches have been by UP Aerospace). And since much of the $200-million facility was built using taxpayer dollars – in addition to the state having to cover the costs of an annual operating deficit of $500,000 – New Mexicans have become understandably disenchanted with the project. On the flip side, several optimistic celebrities, including Justin Bieber, have already purchased a ticket with Virgin Galactic for a 23,000-mile-per-hour flight into space – at a cool $250,000 per person. The price includes private parties and a stroll down the Astronaut Walk to your spaceship complete with smoke and celebratory hooplah – this is a Richard Branson company after all.

You cannot access the Spaceport, a guarded facility, unless you are part of a tour, but you can take a photo in front of the striking Genesis statue in the roundabout that fronts the property.

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