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? You guessed it – space tourism. In 2006, the world's first commercial spaceport got the green light from state lawmakers, with the hope that private spacecraft would be taking off from the desert 30 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences by 2011.
As intriguing as that sounds, things have unfortunately not gone as planned. As of early 2017, almost no flights by the main tenants, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, have taken off at all (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.
It seems the days of 23,000-mile-per-hour privately operated flights into space (per person $250,000) are still a ways off in the future, but fear not space geeks: you can still visit the largely deserted facility on a multi-hour bus tour, and learn about that future as well as take a ride in a G-force machine. Tours should leave from the visitor center in Truth or Consequences, though at the time of research they were, fittingly, temporarily suspended.