The plans for Spaceport America were as vast as the expanse between the Earth’s surface and outer space. The massive spaceport, built in 2006 on the dreams of Stanford University engineering lecturer and tech startup advisor Dr. Burton Lee, who proposed the idea in 1990, was supposed to make the desert of Truth and Consequences, New Mexico, into a space industry hub. What it became was a tourist attraction in the middle of nowhere, a defunct dream now owned by the state of New Mexico. And, you can visit! Look ma! That’s what REAL failure looks like!
So what is Spaceport America,? Well, it has been described as “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport,” and it was erected well before SpaceX was a twinkle in Elon Musk’s eye. The idea was to build the first spaceport for commercial use, and it was supposed to accommodate a bunch of vertical and horizontal launch aerospace vehicles to, you know, jet off into outer space or the cosmos or whatever.
That clearly did not happen, thanks to kinks in the program development and slow technologies of proposed and current tenants. In other words, the plans from the rocket gurus who thought they’d be launching into intergalactic planetary territory never came to fruition, resulting in revenue for the spaceport crash-landing back into the atmosphere. Throw in some good ol’ fashion political controversy – the government ate the $209 million bill for this mess, and people were pissed – and you have one huge ass expanse of unused cement and glass.
That doesn’t mean it’s totally useless, though. Virgin Galactic is a tenant, and Richard Branson swears they’re going to launch a spaceship from Spaceport America by Christmas, several years after the Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Enterprise, launched from the Spaceport, crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing the pilot and injuring another person. And, you can take a tour of the site, which is useful, too. Gotta make up some of that $500,000 deficit somehow, right? Given the spaceport’s largely unused space – we’re talking about 670,000 sq ft massive – the tour is probably pretty freaking eerie.
Or, maybe you’ll be lucky and book that tour on the day Virgin decides to try another launch. Either way, you’re in for some weird ass fun at Spaceport America, the spaceport that cost the government millions and created a virtual ghost town in Truth and Consequences, New Mexico. Sounds like a great road trip to us.
Distance from Durango: 5 hours, 35 minutes