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One Step Closer To Spaceport America

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the is-it-safe dept.

Space 149

space_hippy writes "The next step for a project we've previously discussed has now come around: thanks to a sales tax increase it seems as though the residents of Dona Ana county in New Mexico will be playing host to the first American commercial spaceport. From the BBC article: 'Residents in the US state of New Mexico have approved a new tax to build the nation's first commercial spaceport. Dona Ana County is a relatively poor and bleak swath of desert in southern New Mexico with fewer than 200,000 residents. But voters passed a 0.25% increase in the local sales tax to help contribute to the cost of building Spaceport America. Sir Richard Branson has signed a long-term lease with the state of New Mexico to make the new spaceport the headquarters of his Virgin Galactic space tourism business. The spaceport is expected to open in 2009, and Virgin Galactic says space flights will cost around $200,000 for a 2.5-hour flight.'"

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149 comments

finally (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641235)

Commercial space flight may happen and it will only have taken 200,000 people paying an extra .25% sales tax. Think of what we could be done with $500 billion.

Re:finally (-1, Flamebait)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641329)

Get real. This is hardly "commercial space flight," it is an extremely elitist amusement park for the very wealthy. Good luck getting your 15 min ride any time soon. No doubt you believe we will soon colonize the solar system, travel to distant stars, escape from the cataclysmic asteroid, terraform Mars and move populations there, etc. Get real. Those things will not happen, ever. A few people may eventually make it out there, but at great cost and nothing that can be called "colonization" or "humanity's escape from cataclysm." If an asteroid hits earth, we are in deep shit. There are not enough resources to evacuate a significant amount of people. Not now, not ever.

Physical limitations, energy and mass balances and the like don't give a crap about your sappy dreams. We need to save the planet, not continue to give money away to aerospace industry swindlers and the pimps of the very rich.

Grow the fuck up for chrissakes.

Re:finally (4, Insightful)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641403)

Get real. Those things will not happen, ever.
You know, I'm pretty sure in the 10th century, the idea of colonizing across a few thousand miles of oceans would have been laughed at. The technology of the day wouldn't make it possible. But if the shipbuilders of the year 1000 had decided they've reached the pinnacle of transportation technology, and no further advancements would ever be possible, would you ever have been born?

Physical limitations, energy and mass balances and the like don't give a crap about your sappy dreams.

Funny thing. If you take the total energy potential of 100 kg object on Earth, and then compare it to a 100 kg object on Mars, do you know what you get for a difference?

Re:finally (5, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641587)

You know, I'm pretty sure in the 10th century, the idea of colonizing across a few thousand miles of oceans would have been laughed at.

The Polynesian people colonized Easter Island in the second century AD, and Hawaii in the third. The Vikings reached Vinland (Newfoundland and Labrador) in the 11th century after Greenland in the 10th. It's controversial, but a pre-Clovis stone age culture may have colonized North America from Europe well before that.

The "colonizing the Americas" metaphor is a pretty dumb one. It took almost no technology once you got there; technically, you could colonize with two people and a spear, although practically it took more. However, a colony on another planet has *no life* and *no life support* as its starting point. Hence, it is entirely dependent on modern technology for everything that it does. Hence, you have to recreate modern technology production. Modern technology has monstrous dependency chains that can't really be simplified to a great extent.

Funny thing. If you take the total energy potential of 100 kg object on Earth, and then compare it to a 100 kg object on Mars, do you know what you get for a difference?

A tremendous amount of delta-V to get one to the other.

Re:finally (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641841)

A tremendous amount of delta-V to get one to the other.

The question wasn't about current technology. The GP stated physical impossibility - I'm merely pointing out that it's really only a few kilowatt-hours of work to move a kg from Earth surface to Mars. No, I don't know (nor can I readily concieve) of a technology to accomplish that. But in five hundred, a thousand, whatever years, it may be possible. Ruling it out as a physical impossibility today is silly.

Re:finally (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642747)

I'm merely pointing out that it's really only a few kilowatt-hours of work to move a kg from Earth surface to Mars

No it's not. The energy difference is a few kWh, but the energy to *move it there* is many MWh, and the energy cost is small compared to the labor cost. Your statements are like saying "This board has the same energy as a board if it were split in two pieces; therefore, it will take no energy to break this board."

Re:finally (2, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641593)

You are using a tired old argument that is just not true. Polynesia was settled thousands of years ago using small watercraft that are quite primitive by our standards. No laws of physics were there to stop them, no need for vast amounts of fuel to move miniscule masses from one place to another. They traveled thousands of miles under dangerous conditions. There are many other historical examples of such migrations, large and small. Shipping large amounts of people to Mars or even into orbit faces physical limitations that cannot be overcome with mere words.

I thought you were being serious until I read "If you take the total energy potential of 100 kg object on Earth, and then compare it to a 100 kg object on Mars, do you know what you get for a difference?" What precesiely are you asking? How about "what is the cost of a 5 gal jug of water on earth, and the same one on Mars?" I will let you do the homework. Don't try to weasel out by claiming that lots of water is on Mars, etc. You would then have to transport not merely a 5 gal jug, but sufficient equipment and supplies to get the water out of the ground, purify it, and bottle it, along with the infrastructure to support the process. That is an even more daunting and expensive task.

The argument that "in the old days who would have believed blah blah blah" is empty of explanatory power, is a tired and tiresome cliche, and is little more than a rhetorical black box.

Physical limitations (2, Insightful)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641793)

Shipping large amounts of people to Mars or even into orbit faces physical limitations that cannot be overcome with mere words.

I thought you were being serious until I read "If you take the total energy potential of 100 kg object on Earth, and then compare it to a 100 kg object on Mars, do you know what you get for a difference?" What precesiely are you asking?

What, precisely, am I asking? Well, what is that minimum amount of work required to move an object from the surface of the Earth to the surface of Mars. Not with the technology we have today - what's the total amount of work done? (It's something on the order of 1.5E10 Joules. A few thousand kilowatt hours.)

Do we have the technology to do it that easily today? Obviously not.

Will we ever? I don't know, because I can't see the future. If you have, and you know "Those things will not happen, ever.", please, enlighten us as to what will happen?

The argument that "in the old days who would have believed blah blah blah" is empty of explanatory power, is a tired and tiresome cliche, and is little more than a rhetorical black box.

When the preceding arguement on the other side is "That will never be feasible", and they can't even supply numbers to back that up, what other response is possible?

Re:Physical limitations (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641901)

What, precisely, am I asking? Well, what is that minimum amount of work required to move an object from the surface of the Earth to the surface of Mars. Not with the technology we have today - what's the total amount of work done? (It's something on the order of 1.5E10 Joules. A few thousand kilowatt hours.)

Not the right question. The amount of work isn't the issue, it's the amount of energy needed to do that work. Even if you hypothesize some technology whereby the energy spent getting out of earth's gravity well can be recovered dropping into mar's gravity well, you still need to spend the energy to get off earth first, and that's a lot of energy. I mean, if you go to mars, then come back, you've done zero work, but are you suggesting it would take zero energy to do so?

Net change in potential energy isn't a useful metric.

Re:Physical limitations (2, Interesting)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642059)

Even if you hypothesize some technology whereby the energy spent getting out of earth's gravity well can be recovered dropping into mar's gravity well, you still need to spend the energy to get off earth first, and that's a lot of energy.

Even if you don't figure landing on Mars, but just reaching mars orbit, it still doesn't add much energy to the problem. (Okay, redid the calculations, it sort of does. It's 1.4E10 J instead of 1.1E10. So about a quarter.)

Net change in potential energy isn't a useful metric.

When one person says "that's impossible, and always will be", it's difficult to argue against. Potential energy is pretty much the baseline - if that says it's impossible, then it always will be. (Unless you figure out how to violate the conservation of energy,mass, or momentum. But that's cheating.) Otherwise, it's very hard to say.

For instance, a hypothetical space elevator. I know, this is not immediately related to a spaceport, beyond needing the facilities to launch the anchor satelitte from. In this case, you're using a standard electric motor to add the potential energy for the first leg of the trip. In the correct running conditions, electric motors are better than 50% efficient. Three steps, a 50% effecient process means you're looking about about 1E11 J for a 100kg object to mars. That's still better than a 1kg object to orbit with our current technology.

Re:Physical limitations (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642107)

Well I'm not the one arguing for impossibility, just that work done isn't a great metric.

And if you open the door to any hypothetical technology that could be invented in hundreds or thousands of years, I'm not sure how you'd ever have potential energy by itself say it was "physically impossible". Maybe more energy than was in the Sun?

Anyway, the space elevator (or space hook or space loop or whatever your variant is) is probably the best "real" technology that could make space accessible. Without it, as long as we are using DeltaV, then it's not impossible but very much impractical which in a lot of ways is worse. Impossible means you don't know how, impractical means you do and it's not worth it. :)

Re:Physical limitations (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642165)

I'm not sure how you'd ever have potential energy by itself say it was "physically impossible". Maybe more energy than was in the Sun?
Sort of my point. Saying anything will never be possible is kinda silly.

Anyway, the space elevator (or space hook or space loop or whatever your variant is) is probably the best "real" technology that could make space accessible.
Agreed.

Impossible means you don't know how, impractical means you do and it's not worth it. :)
Sometimes impratical means "know how, but it's not worth it in today's dollars" (oil from Canada's big sand bank, for instance). But Sid Meier's 'Alpha Centauri' aside, even given a doomsday scenario, I don't think we could today (or even in the next fifty years) get a colonize-another-planet project off the ground in time.

Re:Physical limitations (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642839)

Unless your space elevator is to be made out of a superconductor, you're going to have to do beamed power tranmission. Conventional conductors lose far, far too much power over those distances, and even if they didn't, the weight addition would ruin the elevator. Not only is it beamed power transmission, but your receiver is tiny. You're looking at, at best, a few percent efficiency.

As for energy recapture, I recommend you read Dr. Bradley Edwards' comments about the subject (the person who did what is probably the most thorough space elevator study to date). Of course, the very concept of an earth space elevator is not realistic without unobtanium. Even the strongest SWNTs measured to date are only 60GPa, when you really need >100GPa if you want a reasonable taper factor.

Anyone who resorts to "space elevators" for their plans is really reaching.

Re:Physical limitations (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642321)

you still need to spend the energy to get off earth first, and that's a lot of energy

yes there ae many obstacles to overcome before we can build a space elevator, but the energy needed once we have a tech that is that efficient is not the huge amount of energy we have to spend currently.

Re:finally (2, Insightful)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641911)

Where his argument is tired and cliche, yours is fatally myopic. Saying "We will never colonize space because only the extremely rich and elite go there now" is like saying "The sun will never burn out because right now it looks really bright." It's absurdly shortsighted.

Remember that while space holds a nearly infinite amount of usable resources, earth houses a finite amount of usable resources that are becoming scarcer by the second. I would argue that the desire for resources has fuelled all human migration, large and small. Saying humans will not leave the planet earth not only ignores written history, it ignores pre-history and the nature of life as it has always existed. Having evolved from single-celled germs that live in the oceans, then to land-dwelling beasts, then to monkeys and the great apes, humans then had to migrate from Africa, to Asia Minor and Central Asia, to Australia and to Europe, to England, to the Americas. All because they were chasing the resources necessary for their survival.

So by the simple likelihood that humans will continue to behave similarly to how they have behaved, its obvious that eventually there will be an economic need for humans to live in space. If there's not an economic need, there will be a military need.

As for the issue of cost, commercial spaceflight has only existed for a few years now. That means our technological limitations at the moment cause spaceflight to be exceedingly rare and thus expensive. As more money is poured into spaceflight, the availability (supply) of spaceflight will go up, and the price will come down. But again, it won't be for travel that commerce starts to move beyond sub-orbital altitudes into outer space. It will be because space is economically valuable.

Re:finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18642197)

You really are a retard.

"I don't see how, therefore it cannot be"

Fucking faggot. Go rape some children with the rest of your bible thumping friends.

hahah, verification word is heathen

Re:finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18641409)

Wow, name calling and providing baseless assertions of humanities future. And you called the gp childish?

Never say never.

Re:finally (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641515)

While I depressingly agree with most of what you said, I disagree that progress here on earth and robotic exploration of space are mutually exclusive. Quite to the contrary, I see robotic exploration as just another way to pick up R&D funds for new tech. It's been funding improved solar cells, AI research (esp. vision recognition), thermovoltaic generation, high bandwidth/low power radio communication, and countless other things. Meanwhile, we get to learn about our reality around us.

For those of us who have followed Cassini, it's been one continual excitement after another. Carolyn Porco, head of the imaging team, refers to scientific discovery as the reason she doesn't need church. It gives her the same sense of peace and awe that people go to church to experience -- I can totally agree with that sentiment. Just to pick one example amount the countless: in Enceladus's geysers (a truly amazing discovery for a distant, shiny, frigid ice ball not under heavy tidal stresses), they've found acetylene and propane. That blows the mind. This means either A) it was either VERY hot in there long ago and all of this organic matter has been trapped for this long, B) it is VERY hot in there now or recently, or C) there's catalytic chemistry going on in its subsurface ocean -- the same sort of proto-life chemistry that ended up producing us. And the wonderful thing about Enceladus's geysers? They're spewing large amounts of that ocean into space -- enough to coat other moons, enough to make it the moon in the solar system, enough to create a major enough ring around Saturn that makes Saturn's magnetic field lag behind it's rotation. We don't have to drill to see what's in there; a lander could pick up the stuff straight from the surface.

Re:finally (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642071)

I wholeheartedly agree with you! If you dig out my past posts on the subject, you will see that I tirelessly promote robotic exploration instead of the pointless and wasteful manned exploration. I am a total unmanned space exploration booster, believe me!

50 years of space exploration, in one sentence (2, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641619)

A few people may eventually make it out there, but at great cost and nothing that can be called "colonization" or "humanity's escape from cataclysm."

Bravo. I think in one sentence you just summed up ~50 years of space "exploration."

The best part of it? The people who have made out like bandits (telecommunications/entertainment companies, defense contractors which "do" everything NASA needs done and built all the satellites lofted into space and the missiles that thankfully haven't been) are liable to be the only ones to do so.

Why? Orbital junk. Pretty soon, we will be trapped by the trash floating around the planet, and the "backup plan" for humanity (ie colonizing other planets) will be impossible.

Right around the same time the environment undergoes rapid, cataclysmic changes...

Re:50 years of space exploration, in one sentence (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641839)

If you can ship a non trivial amount of cargo to another planet, you can toss a slab of steel into orbit and plow out an orbital path; orbital junk is an inconvenience, not a problem.

Re:50 years of space exploration, in one sentence (2, Interesting)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641877)

I still say Orion [wikipedia.org] would have been a success. You know, except for that irradiating a bunch of fish when any of them crash thing. But, really, who eats non-farmed fish anymore, anyway?

Re:50 years of space exploration, in one sentence (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642955)

Funny how people always mention Orion, as though its design wasn't effectively obsoleted by the Medusa [wikipedia.org] design.

Medusa performs better than the classical Orion design because its "pusher plate" intercepts more of the bomb's blast, its shock-absorber stroke is much longer, and all its major structures are in tension and hence can be quite lightweight. It also scales down better. Medusa-type ships would be capable of a specific impulse between 50,000 and 100,000 seconds (500 to 1000 kNs/kg).

Re:50 years of space exploration, in one sentence (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642365)

Pretty soon, we will be trapped by the trash floating around the planet...Right around the same time the environment undergoes rapid, cataclysmic changes

if we are trapped by a layer of space junk, wouldn't that block enough of the sun's raditation to counter global warming? I think we are far cry from having orbit so crowded as to prevent spacecraft from getting through.

Re:finally (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641647)

Physical limitations, energy and mass balances and the like don't give a crap about your sappy dreams.

I suggest you take some basic physics lessons, and then calculate the amount of energy it takes to lift a single person a few hundred kilometres up (where you can find low orbit satellites). Compare that to the amount of energy on your monthly electric bill (and what you pay for that), and you might be surprised.

Summarised: space travel isn't expensive or hard because of physical limitations, but because mankind hasn't (yet) mastered the art (as in: made it easy). Or because current state of the art is just very clumsy/inefficient.

And in a world where perhaps a billion people or more have never in their lives used a phone, what exactly sets a 200k space trip apart from a rollercoaster ride in an amusement park? You and I might be jealous of those 'elitist few', but they are paving the way, making space travel cheaper and (at some point) affordable for the rest of us. So stop whining. Wanna get up there? Find a way to earn 200k or whatever it costs by the time you're going.

Re:finally (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641683)

Show me a way to turn grid power into altitude at even close to a 1:1 ratio, give me the patents, and I'll give you my house. Deal?

Re:finally (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641713)

In other words, saying "getting to space doesn't take much power" is like saying "The 'color force' that holds quarks together has a tremendous amount of energy, so all we need to do is harness it." The fact is that every second you're not in orbit, Earth is tugging on you with 9.8 m/s^2. And there's that pesky atmosphere in the way. And then there's the issue of getting your acceleration in a way that doesn't scale exponentially with desired delta-V. Realities like these get in the way of a good analogy.

why would they pay? (-1, Flamebait)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641237)

Why would 200,000 impoverished people pay extra sales tax to build a "spaceport" for the usual crowd of international super-rich assholes? Beyond that, how much money can this possibly raise, enough to build part of the parking lot? They must be desperate for even menial, servile employment.

More dipshit ideas from corrupt businessmen and politicians, and the SciFi fanboys who support them.

Re:why would they pay? (3, Insightful)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641279)

Think about the jobs that this opens up. Janitors, security guards, secretaries, and the businesses that sell to them, as well as to the travelers who come through. Hotels require waiters, maids, etc. A lot of service level jobs can be found at an airport.

Re:why would they pay? (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641307)

Yeah, why would anyone want to attract wealthy tourists to a place whose economy is otherwise completely stagnant?

Those "SciFi fanboys" were the voters, as in residents. But hey, what would they know?

Pretty sure you're trolling.... (4, Insightful)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641331)

but just in case you're not.

Are you aware of how huge the tourism industry (which often makes its best profit margins off the small groups of "international super-rich assholes") is in many, many places throughout the world?

Perhaps they (these New Mexicans) have enough vision to realize that if a major corporation opens a one-of-a-kind (as in, go to space for less than a million dollars) buisness in their backyard, the chance of them getting good-paying (by their current standards, although you'd probably still call it "menial, servile") jobs increases dramatically?

Re:Pretty sure you're trolling.... (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641385)

You and the other responders are wildly optimistic. There needs to be mass tourism for it to be attractive as a large-scale tourism development project. This spaceport will be a small luxury attraction, hardly a huge tourist attraction. In any event, I agree that the locals need the jobs. It is sad that in their desperation they can only clutch at straws like this. It is far from clear that 200,000 people can become prosperous within the first 10 or 20 years from this project.

Re:Pretty sure you're trolling.... (2, Insightful)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641617)

It is far from clear that 200,000 people can become prosperous within the first 10 or 20 years from this project.

Prosperous? What kind of idiot are you.

It's an investment, they don't need to each make half a million on it. As long as it pays of better than other types of investments they could make then it was worth it. They'll be getting both regular and very rich tourists, the later are likely to spend some money.

Your ignorance is showing (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641717)

If you had done a tiny bit of research you would ahve found out that:
A) Many companies are looking for more places to launch satalites.
B) Parts of the complex are going to be used for other industry
C) It doesn't take a lot of rich people to maek a profit in putting them into space
D) Company will have space launch for promotional reasons.
E) They will need to attract higher paid people for launch support.
F) They will need more high paid people for IT support
G) Those higher paid people tend spend there money locally
H) It is an investment. They think those items I list(and others) wil pay off over the long run.

You have a lack of imagination, vision, and common sense.
Please get off the internet.

Re:Your ignorance is showing (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641787)

You have a lack of imagination, vision, and common sense.
Please get off the internet.


What are you talking about?! He's exactly where he belongs!

Re:Your ignorance is showing (1)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642099)

You have a lack of imagination, vision, and common sense.

Please get off the internet.

What are you talking about?! He's exactly where he belongs!

Wait, did I accidentally go on digg again?

Re:why would they pay? (2, Insightful)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641821)

Agreed. Lets assume that each of those 200,000 on average earn $20,000/year. Lets also assume that each of them spend all their earnings because poor people can not save money. Then the 0.25% sales tax increase means that the county collects an extra 10 million dollars each year. That money is hardly enough to build and run a normal airport, let alone a highly experimental space airport. There is no way that their projected earnings can make up for those costs.

What else could you do with ten million? You could employ a few hundred teachers, nurses or other public service personnel. Such a project would have much higher chance of being profitable. Not only does it raise the quality of your county's public services, which attracts high income tax payers, it also contributes to your local economy. A few hundred new jobs means a few hundred more that pays income and sales tax all without the risks involved in building a commercial space port.

Re:why would they pay? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18641833)

Impoverished? I live in Dona Ana county. I wouldn't say the landscape is bleak and I wouldn't say the people are poor. The landscape is desert. White Sands National Monument is 40 miles east and the Organ Mountains have spectacular views. Las Cruces, NM (the second largest city in NM) which is in Dona Ana county has a population of 23,000 students. Maybe when you add them to the 90,000 permanent residents you see the "relatively poor" area of New Mexico.

In short, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

200k for a flight (4, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641261)

I assume this is a sub-orbital flight past the boundary of space like Spaceship 1 took, but doing that would still qualify for my life-goal of "see earth from space". I want to do this before I die. Even if I'm 90 and the flight will probably kill me, I'd sign whatever waivers I needed to and take my chances.

I wonder how 200k compares to the cost of airline flights at the birth of commercial aviation after adjusting for inflation? I'm guessing it's still quite a bit more, but maybe not too far? Either way, the point is that it's only a 1-2 orders of magnitude from where many people would be able to do it, including myself. And that makes me very excited.

Re:200k for a flight (3, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641641)

see earth from space

Ride a MiG. [incredible...ntures.com]

Sure, it's not 100km, but it's high enough to get the curvature of the planet and what might as well be a vaccuum outside. And costs a tenth as much. And keeps you up there for almost an hour.

Besides, if it's not orbital, is it really all that different? SS1 is so far from an orbital spacecraft it's not even funny. Now the Falcon, that's a good private rocket :)

Re:200k for a flight (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641763)

Besides, if it's not orbital, is it really all that different? SS1 is so far from an orbital spacecraft it's not even funny. Now the Falcon, that's a good private rocket :)

Yeah, I'd say 20km vs 100km is a big difference. But I'll consider the MiG as a backup plan if Virgin Galactic doesn't pan out. :)

And believe me, I'm hoping for orbital. You don't have to tell me SS1 is not even close to orbital. I don't think it's ridiculous to think I may see it by the time I'm 90, though it's of course tremendously less likely than sub-orbital which I'm pretty sure of. Again, it's about backup plans. I'm not the first person to have this dream, but I'm of one of the first generations to actually have a feasible shot at it.

Re:200k for a flight (2, Interesting)

oldwindways (934421) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641719)

I wonder how 200k compares to the cost of airline flights at the birth of commercial aviation after adjusting for inflation? I'm guessing it's still quite a bit more, but maybe not too far? Either way, the point is that it's only a 1-2 orders of magnitude from where many people would be able to do it, including myself. And that makes me very excited.
Very interesting question. As a bit of a benchmark, a flight in a Russian MIG fighter jet (http://www.atlasaerospace.net/eng/pilot.htm/ [atlasaerospace.net] ) currently ranges from roughly $8K to $17K for a 45 minute ride. The projected space flight would be approximately 3.33 times the duration, so a MIG flight lasting the same would be roughly $50K (for one of the higher end aircraft such as the MIG-25 or MIG-31) or 25% of cost of the space flight. Considering the difference in velocity, distance traveled (MIGs have an operational ceiling of roughly 20km [wikipedia.org] , while Virgin Spaceships are planned to climb to 140km [bbc.co.uk] ) , and overall "WOW factor", I'd say that $200K is about the right amount for such an experience.

Re:200k for a flight (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642671)

> As a bit of a benchmark, a flight in a Russian MIG fighter jet (http://www.atlasaerospace.net/eng/pilot.htm/) currently ranges from roughly $8K to $17K for a 45 minute ride.

And scaling it down the other way, if it's just a few minutes of zero-G you're after, a little googling revealed that anyone can get a ride on NASA Ames' Vomit Comet in honor of Yuri's Night 2007 [worldspaceparty.com] for a paltry $5000 [inticketing.com] , and you get to fly just 10 days from next Thursday.

$5K for a vomit comet ride into zero-G.
$50K for a MiG-25 ride to where the sky starts to change color when you look up
$200K for a suborbital hop.

All are pretty much in the range of what can be achieved with a few months/years/decades worth of work.

Don't need a fancier car this year? A small plane when you retire? A bigger house to hand down to your grandchildren? I'm one of Slashdot's resident cynics, and even I am amazed at the opportunities out there, even priced in 2007 dollars. I damn well hope this is a trend.

Re:200k for a flight (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18643009)

3.3 times the duration -- what? Where are you getting that from? Virgin Galactic's flight is only to last for a few minutes.

Re:200k for a flight (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641721)

The Spirit of St. Louis supposedly cost about $10,000 in 1927:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_of_St._Louis [wikipedia.org]

which is about $110,000 in today's dollars:

http://www.westegg.com/inflation/ [westegg.com]

So I think it is probably safe to say that early commercial tickets were just a bit cheaper than that(depending on what you want to call 'early' and 'commercial', but the non-stop trans Atlantic thing was a 'significant milestone' type of event, so it seems like a nice benchmark).

Re:200k for a flight (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641819)

Ah, thanks for the info.

Now obviously airline flights had more immediate utility for a wealthy business man than a simple joy ride into space, though it was a luxury. So let's just assume that space flight doesn't become a commodity like airline tickets are today, but will travel down a somewhat similar cost curve so that it is at least feasible for average people to take as a 'family vacation' or some such.

Re:200k for a flight (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641965)

Why does everyone assume this is only for joyrides? Ignoring the potential for launching satellites, consider just the travel benefits. This is minutes from Las Vegas (great place for joyrides, but we are ignoring those), not far from Albuquerque. A 1 hour flight from Los Angeles. Currently Tokyo is a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles. A commercial spaceport somewhere in Japan would put LA and Tokyo a mere 3-4 hours apart. For $200000 you might only use such a service for surgeons and diplomats, but imagine when the price is $20000 per flight per person? Or $2000? The same applies to LANY, and NYLondon. Or even LALondon or NYTokyo or LATokyo, for that matter.

Unfortunately in this particular case it is mostly hypothetical because the major cities will get their own spaceports by the time such travel is mainstream. So back to joyrides... What if they are travel-joyrides? Billionaires drop millions of dollars in one trip to Las Vegas. But it is such a long trip. What if you could go from (the aforementioned spaceport in) NY to Vegas in an hour? Why bother with Atlantic City?

Re:200k for a flight (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642069)

Why does everyone assume this is only for joyrides?

I dunno, because I assume that you don't need a "spaceport" for high-altitude flights that would pretty much be as fast but lower energy cost? I could be completely wrong, and I'd be happy to be completely wrong if it means I could fulfill my wish of seeing earth from space in the mere course of visiting Tokyo or something. Obviously commercial travel would help drive the costs down faster. I just haven't heard any discussion of using the spaceport for travel.

This is minutes from Las Vegas (great place for joyrides, but we are ignoring those), not far from Albuquerque

Uh, this spaceport is in southern NM, between Albuquerque and Las Cruces (closer to the latter if I recall from driving past it, but no it isn't far from Albuquerque). You have to cross the entire state of Arizona to get to Vegas.

Re:200k for a flight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18642497)

you must also consider that airplanes were use to get aroung from place to place.
this is just a trip up and back down. no "real" use.
now, if they build 2 space ports, one here and one in, say, europe, this would be "worth it". fly to europe in far less time. (if thats's how it works, i didn't do any math).

Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (2, Insightful)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641299)

I consider myself a space enthusiast, but I find it amazing that in a time when initiatives to raise taxes to better fund schools routinely fail, that this one passes. I can only surmise that the economic situation in the area is truly desperate. Sadly, I suspect that Virgin Galactic is getting the better end of the deal. Any increase in jobs is likely to be temporary and primarily associated with construction of the facility. And increased tourism is just a huge guess. I wish them luck, but this is a huge gamble.

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18641453)

Well raising taxes for schools worked around here once. The next years budget had an extra assistant for all the administrators at the school board and an extra administrator in the office at all the schools. Thanks to the rise in taxes they only had to cut two teaching positions to make the budget balance. Since then people haven't approved tax raises for the schools.

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641783)

It's a small tax increase. The risk to reward ratio is pretty good on this one.
Sure , it might fail, but if it pays off, it will pay off in a very big way.

This is the real question:
Is this the equivilant of the first international Airport, or the first international dirigable-port?

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641903)

The risk to reward ratio is pretty good on this one.

If the ratio is so great, how come Branson isn't willing to fund it himself? If it was a good investment, I would be investing with MY cash!

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (3, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641929)

If the ratio is so great, how come Branson isn't willing to fund it himself? If it was a good investment, I would be investing with MY cash!

He is investing his cash! Way more than NM is spending. The point is that all else being equal he wouldn't be funding it to be built in New Mexico.

It's not like the proposed Branson build a space port and he said "Hey, neat idea, would you pay me to do it?" Branson wanted to build a space port already, and while shopping around for locations NM said "Hey, we'd chip in if you built it here".

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642835)

"Hey, we'd chip in if you built it here".

So it's bribery, in other words.

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (1)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641923)

Funding isn't the problem with schools. The stereotypical "bad schools" in inner cities have very, very high funding compared to high-quality private (sometimes religious) schools. The best school in my state is Catholic; most of their tuition (which does not compare to taxpayer spending on public school to begin with) is siphoned off by the State Church offices, and very little goes to fund the school itself.

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18641931)

More money will not make the schools better in many cases. Attracting extremely wealthy tourists will improve the economic situation (though, of course, this won't necessarily happen).

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641959)

Well, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense (the tax hike being good for the community). The only clients Virgin Galactic will have are big-time, multi-millionare business people. These people, in turn, are going to want to stay in 5-star hotels the night before their flight, eat at 5-star restaurants for the day they spend there, maybe buy a few hundred dollars worth in suvineers while they're at it. This doesn't even begin to figure in the workers and management of these lavish facilities, all of whome have a lot more money to blow on goods than the locals do. Income tax wouldn't work because all the clients don't live there, and a lot of the workers are probably going to be passing through. Sales tax, then, makes a lot of sense.

It is depressing that this happens this way in an age when we're rejecting local tax increases for schools, but in this particular instance, the sales tax seems like exactly what this town needs.

Re:Pie In The Sky, Way Up In The Sky (3, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642551)

I don't think the comparison between this tax proposal and one for local schools is valid.

First of all, this is going from zero to something instead of huge to even larger. There is no existing spaceport authority to show they have mis-managed tax dollars in the past, something which many school districts can be accused of doing.

If you think about it, a teacher can only be supported by a finite number of families. Yes, taxing wealthy people does have an impact, but if you tax the wealthy too much, they simply move out. If the average class size is 30 students, and families have on average 3 kids, that means you can only have 10 families support one teacher. The salary of that teacher is directly tied to the salaries/wages/income of those 10 families and raising or lowering taxes only redistributes that basic support base.

If you think of preschools/daycare centers, this number is reduced even more, so it is a clear demonstration that day care centers will never make significant money except when catering to the very wealthy.

The same could be said about policemen, firefighters, and other typical municipal workers and to explain why they make the money that they do.

Why this is so completely different is that we aren't talking about what one small community must support, but what kind of financial support and revenue could result that would be of a regional or even a continental level of income. The number of communities that are competing on this level right now is precisely two (New Mexico and Virginia) with two other potential suitors (Florida and Texas). At the very least, New Mexico will be a regional center for the entire western USA for this kind of activity.

Raising the tax rate for funding local schools (which may or may not have merit) isn't going to give a local region a significant advantage over any other region of the country. At best it will help fix some long term problem that may need a solution that doesn't require money as well.

the great American jobs scam, at work (5, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641533)

Dona Ana County is a relatively poor and bleak swathe of desert in southern New Mexico with fewer than 200,000 residents. But voters passed a 0.25% increase in the local sales tax to help contribute to the cost of building Spaceport America. Sir Richard Branson has signed a long-term lease with the state of New Mexico to make the new spaceport the headquarters of his Virgin Galactic space tourism business.

Ah, cue the great lie that tax incentives to draw corporations "create" jobs [amazon.com] .

Let's think about how absurd this is: a man worth about $7.8BN [wikipedia.org] (which represents about 11% of New Mexico's GDP [nam.org] ) just got one quarter of his spaceport paid for by people who make on average $29-33k [wikipedia.org] , so that people with multi-million-dollar net worths can blast themselves into space?

Let me put the numbers in proportion for you: if Branson took one third of his net worth (percentage-wise, not too out of line with what the residents of the county just did for his little corporate venture) and divided it amongst ALL the people of the county, he would effectively raise the median income by 50%.

I'm sure in such a poor county that the level of education can't be that great, but seriously- how could people so poor be so stupid as to think this was something in their favor? As The Great American Job Scam points out, corporations are routinely handed millions upon millions of dollars by state governments, with the promise of creating X number of jobs which will NEVER come even remotely close to putting that much money in wages?

How many jobs will this spaceport actually bring in that residents in the county within commuting distance will be qualified for? And don't they realize that the spaceport will bring in a lot of much higher paid people (engineers, technical staff, etc), who will drive property values through the roof as they snap up land for McMansions? Cue the trickle down economics comments.

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (1)

Braxton_Bragg (902868) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641563)

Well you have to admire how Sir Richard parlayed his position as a manager to some rock groups into a legendary billionaire. You have to wonder if he's bored now, reaching out to the real stars ?

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18641591)

AHA! Commie!!!! How dare you try to express your opinion in the land of the free. Common sense is a red concept! I bet you have ties to Al-Quaida too. You bought that pot they were selling.......... I know......I seen it.....

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641681)

Let's think about how absurd this is: a man worth about $7.8BN (which represents about 11% of New Mexico's GDP) just got one quarter of his spaceport paid for by people who make on average $29-33k, so that people with multi-million-dollar net worths can blast themselves into space?

No... They paid for part of the spaceport so he'd build it where they live and so that those multi-millionaires would come to spend their money where they live. He was going to build it anyway, and he was almost certainly not going to build it in New Mexico without any incentive to do so.

Let me put the numbers in proportion for you: if Branson took one third of his net worth (percentage-wise, not too out of line with what the residents of the county just did for his little corporate venture) and divided it amongst ALL the people of the county, he would effectively raise the median income by 50%.

You're right, it was pretty stupid of the residents not to vote for Branson to give them a 3rd of his net worth.

Or hey, they should have voted to end the Iraq War and have all the defense spending sent to them. Then they'd all be rich and their problems would be over!

How many jobs will this spaceport actually bring in that residents in the county within commuting distance will be qualified for? And don't they realize that the spaceport will bring in a lot of much higher paid people (engineers, technical staff, etc), who will drive property values through the roof as they snap up land for McMansions? Cue the trickle down economics comments.

Yeah, I know, trickle down sucks, but it's what they're dealing with. I'm sure they'd feel so much smarter watching the space port be built somewhere else and having the money of these tourists come in somewhere else while their own economy continues to go down the shitter.

But you know New Mexico is large and sparsely populated. I wouldn't be too concerned about the property values driving out locals. Those engineers will need houses, they'll need food, the rich tourists will need lodging, that's all jobs and money coming into the community.

Is this the best thing for them? Well we'll have to see. It really depends on what happens to Virgin Galactic. If it succeeds, then this little place in New Mexico that you've never heard of before could become a significant tourist destination.

Straw-man arguments and gentrification (3, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642269)

No... They paid for part of the spaceport so he'd build it where they live and so that those multi-millionaires would come to spend their money where they live

That statement assumes that multi-millionaires will spend any remotely-significant amount of their money in town. What is more likely is that they will fly into the spaceport via private jet, stay in luxury accomodations at the spaceport, get blasted into space, land, and fly home via their private jet.

It is extremely likely that Virgin will structure things such that payment for all of this will take place in such a manner that New Mexico and (ironically) the county, will not see a dime in sales tax.

He was going to build it anyway, and he was almost certainly not going to build it in New Mexico without any incentive to do so.

You and I both have little idea if that statement is true, but it's irrelevant nonetheless: my point is that the people of the county in question will most likely be better off if Branson hadn't built the spaceport (in their county), or hadn't received a dime from them.

You're right, it was pretty stupid of the residents not to vote for Branson to give them a 3rd of his net worth. Or hey, they should have voted to end the Iraq War and have all the defense spending sent to them. Then they'd all be rich and their problems would be over!

That's an invalid straw man argument.

Yeah, I know, trickle down sucks, but it's what they're dealing with. I'm sure they'd feel so much smarter watching the space port be built somewhere else and having the money of these tourists come in somewhere else while their own economy continues to go down the shitter.

"Trickle down" doesn't exist. It's bullshit made up by an actor who played President to justify to poor people why he was handing rich people and corporations tax cuts.

Irregardless, you're also again relying on the completely speculative argument that "if a spaceport is built, it will benefit the county." That seems very dubious, given the scale just tipped $50,000,000 out of their favor, and all Branson has committed to doing is leasing some facilities and land.

But you know New Mexico is large and sparsely populated. I wouldn't be too concerned about the property values driving out locals. Those engineers will need houses, they'll need food, the rich tourists will need lodging, that's all jobs and money coming into the community.

The engineers will built very expensive homes in the nicest places (which is where people are usually already living), close to the spaceport. When Joe Engineer offers a big lump of cash to a hesitant (or greedy) potential seller and the deal closes, guess what happens to the property values for land around where Joe Engineer now lives? It goes up. And guess what happens to property taxes? They go up. My parents have a close friend who is 80 and has lived in my hometown for half her life, working much of it tirelessly as a volunteer- and she can't afford the property taxes on the modest home and small parcel of land she owns, because the valuation by the town has tripled based on sale prices of homes around her and in the rest of the town.

Back to NM...some landlords will cash out, kicking out tenants, who will now be looking for places to live- further bumping up demand for remaining property or rentals. The engineers will not want to live next to run-down houses or trailer homes owned by the locals, and they'll start pushing their towns to "do something" about it; suddenly Joe Trailerpark finds himself slapped with a $100 fine for having his Camaro on cinderblocks and $50 for not mowing his lawn. The restaurants and grocery stores will realize their customers can pay more for a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs, or a gallon of gas for that luxury SUV- and because their workers have been priced out of living in/near town, they have to look harder for people to staff the registers, or pay more. Etc. etc. etc. Are you living in a fishbowl and haven't heard of gentrification?

Maybe you should come to Cape Cod. More than half the homes on the Cape are owned by non-residents, and real estate and basic cost-of-living expenses are so high, year-round residents are increasingly being forced out.

Re:Straw-man arguments and gentrification (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642897)

Going on about how someone's arguments aren't fair and then comparing 400 square mile Cape Cod to 3800 square mile Doña Ana County is kind of a silly thing to do(especially when the one is surrounded by ground and the other is surrounded by a big wetness).

Re:Straw-man arguments and gentrification (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 7 years ago | (#18643171)

So to sum up your argument:

1) Large construction projects are bad for the local economy.
2) New jobs are a bad thing if they happen to be the result of a subsidized project.
3) Progress is bad.

That about right?

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (3, Insightful)

merreborn (853723) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641739)

And don't they realize that the spaceport will bring in a lot of much higher paid people (engineers, technical staff, etc), who will drive property values through the roof as they snap up land for McMansions?


1) Own a home in the area when property values skyrocket.
2) Sell home at drastically inflated price.
3) Profit.

The only people who stand to lose from that arrangement are those who don't already own their homes. But that's what you get for throwing hundreds/thousands of dollars a month into the black pit known as "rent".

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (3, Insightful)

Al Dimond (792444) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642487)

There are a lot of people throwing money into that black pit, many for good reasons. Just because they don't own houses now doesn't mean we shouldn't consider how they're impacted. There probably will be some positive effects for everyone, but increased cost of living is a concern for lots of people.

Two more things:

1. If you sell your house for profit you still have to live somewhere. You either buy another home at drastically inflated price (and in the process you'd lose money buying a house of equal value, because of all the money that flows out to lawyers, real-estate agents and the like), you throw money down the rent hole (more lossage) or you move somewhere else.

2. You have to pay more in property taxes if you just sit on your more valuable land. In California they passed a law a while back limiting annual value assessment changes, and it's a popular law that's helped people stay in their homes, but since property value does get reassessed (which almost always means a drastic increase in its taxed value) when you buy, sell or improve property it discourages these activities. And people become experts in finding shady ways to dodge reassessment. I think it raises the barrier for new property owners even higher, since new owners have to shoulder more tax burden. Which keeps more people throwing money down the rent hole. Which isn't to say that there aren't better ways it could be handled... just that the increasing value of your home/land might not actually make you rich.

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641871)

In my opinion, let Richard Branson pay for his own frickin space port! While there are valid arguments that seaports and airports should be government funded as part of an industrial infrastructure, those arguments don't apply to spaceports, because there aren't any frickin spaceships to use them! This kind of corporate welfare needs to stop, especially for the likes of billionaire Branson.

Yes, I know the voters approved this. So what? If they think it's that important, they can donate out of their own pockets instead of their neighbors.

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (3, Insightful)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641875)

Let me put the numbers in proportion for you: if Branson took one third of his net worth (percentage-wise, not too out of line with what the residents of the county just did for his little corporate venture) and divided it amongst ALL the people of the county, he would effectively raise the median income by 50%. ...your point being? His wealth isn't sitting as giant gold bricks in his house you know, right? Most of it is invested in companies and thus using it would hurt those companies. Other parts of it may be tied to banks and removing that would impede the banks ability to give out loans.

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18641975)

As a resident of the county in question, I would like to clear up some of the misconceptions that have been mentioned in this thread. It is true that Dona Ana county is not a rich county, but the situation is not as dire as many of you seem to think. The education level in the area is actually pretty high. In fact, this is precisely the reason that the measure passed. New Mexico State University is located here. It is a pretty good engineering and science school. Right now, Las Cruces exports educated people. We would like to keep some of these people here.

I would also like to point out that the economy is not stagnant. Currently, it is more focused on other industries, but the area has seen massive population and business development in the past 5-10 years. Some of us would like to see that development occur in science and technical areas.

The fact that Cruces currently exports educated people is not to say that there are no educated people working here. NASA's test facility and the missile range are large employers of scientists and engineers, but they can only hire so many of us. It would be nice to see more options come along.

Hopefully this clears up some of the misconceptions, and at the very least, let you know that there is at least one slashdot reader among the "poor", "stupid", and "uneducated" residents of Dona Ana county.

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18642229)

"if Branson took one third of his net worth (percentage-wise, not too out of line with what the residents of the county just did for his little corporate venture)"

Not true! They raised the taxes by 0.25%, not 25%!

Re:the great American jobs scam, at work (1)

rvr (15565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642307)

I think you are missing the the really most important point of all this. How can I get a job there?

Tax and subsidize your way to prosperity! (0, Flamebait)

Rotten168 (104565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641703)

It's the American way!

Re:Tax and subsidize your way to prosperity! (0, Offtopic)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641747)

Subsidizing returnes a lot of money back to the coffers.

Re:Tax and subsidize your way to prosperity! (2, Insightful)

Rotten168 (104565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641761)

Subsidizing does? Are you kidding? You idiots are subsidizing a British billionaire!

You're Not From Around Here Are You? (5, Informative)

Del Mar (163443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641741)

Where to start...

From the article you'd think they were refering to the third world. Dona Ana county contains Las Cruces which has New Mexico State University. A very large state school and a pretty good engineering school. I went there. Second White Sands Missle Range is just over the Oragon Mountains (We used to have tailgate parties and watch the pretty lights).

And did I mention Sandia Labs and Los Alamos in the northern part of the state? Microsoft had its first offices in Albuquerque. Anyone remember the Altair 8800? The place is TECH HEAVY. I mean I remember tourning a reactor at one of the labs on a field trip as a freshman in high school. A lot my classmates parents were engineers or physicists.

And don't get me started about "bleak swath of dessert." To know the dessert is to love it.

Re:You're Not From Around Here Are You? (3, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641881)

And don't get me started about "bleak swath of dessert." To know the dessert is to love it.

I love dessert! Mmmmm ice cream, cake, doughnuts, creme broulet, chocolate pudding with smashed up oreos in it.

MMMMMMMMMM yummy

Re:You're Not From Around Here Are You? (1)

Del Mar (163443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641991)

Don't forget twinkies. 'Course where I come from they only bloom after a cloud-burst and you have to pick out the thorns.

Re:You're Not From Around Here Are You? (1)

bogjobber (880402) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642057)

Not to mention it's right next to El Paso, Texas which according to Wikipedia is the 21st largest city in the US.

Re:You're Not From Around Here Are You? (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642267)

To know the dessert is to love it.

...New Mexico State University. A very large state school and a pretty good engineering school. I went there.
I don't believe you. Anyone who's lived in the desert knows how to spell it.

Now there will be two spaceports in NM! (1)

DrPeper (249585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641743)

Spaceport America will be just 200 miles away from the Alien Spaceport (Roswell). Good time to start thinking of moving to NM, what with all that tourist income comming in!

Theme Park (2, Interesting)

jordipg (910826) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641749)

As optimistic as I may be about the prospect of manned space flight, the entire proposition seems a little contrived to me.

The Wright Brothers didn't need an airport to build the first working plane. I'm guessing that what we think of as "airports" and "seaports" today didn't exist for some time after the advent of commercial air and sea travel. Rather, they were probably born of some need to consolidate services and facilities. Right now, there is no need for either with regards to commercial space travel.

For that reason, I think that Branson's space port will emerge as nothing more than a tourist-trap theme park in sunny New Mexico, with a sparsely manned "launch" once every three months. If it ever opens. And the denizens of sunny Dona Ana will stand to gain a bit, but their town will be transformed into a novelty town. Maybe some people want this...? I certainly wouldn't.

Every three months (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642019)

Odds are, you're right about the frequency, especially initially. Keep in mind, though, that these "rocket guys" won't just drive in, do their thing, and leave. You'll have full-time employees, stuff to be stored, things manufactured on site, and all the infrastructure to make it happen. Have you looked at the Kennedy space center's org chart [nasa.gov] ? That's a lot of people and there hasn't been a launch for quite awhile.

Dona Ana spaceport: (4, Funny)

SickLittleMonkey (135315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641755)

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

(Did they choose this place because it has a two word name!?)
SLM

Do the "critics" RTFA? (2, Interesting)

caywen (942955) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641805)

"Supporters of the new tax say the spaceport will bring thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in space tourism revenue to the area.

But critics of the tax plan say the money could be better spent on existing county problems. "

Who are these critics, and do they RTFA? Do they mean existing problems like high unemployment and lack of revenue?

Re:Do the "critics" RTFA? (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642081)

"Supporters of the new tax say the spaceport will bring thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in space tourism revenue to the area.

That sounds like the feelgood message behind every porkbarrel project.

Not that this is one of those. America really needs to subsidize a commercial spaceport where you can go to space for 2 hours for 200 grand.

Convincing investors to raise taxes (2, Insightful)

ender-iii (161623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18641983)

Everybody here is arguing about whether or not this is feasible, and how the parent company has so much money they should just be funding this themselves. Obviously there's more to the story than what we're seeing here, it would be interesting to find out what the investment prospectus was -- how were the residents of new mexico convinced to vote [douginadress.com] , by majority for this tax increase.

Since when do americans vote for a tax increase [prettybored.com] ? That's the real story.

Hoo-rah, majority rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18642033)

Don't see anyone here mentioning the thousands who voted AGAINST it, or, for reason of greater priority, lack of interest, or other, didn't vote at all, and yet get stuck with the bill...

Re:Convincing investors to raise taxes (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642053)

Why pay when others will pay for you....

Re:Convincing investors to raise taxes (2, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642277)

In this particular case the appeal was to personal self-interest. At least the philosophy was that by approving this sort of modest tax increase (it is only 0.25%... although I will admit those are the worst kind because of this very arguement) they will get some very tangible benefits in the long run.

As has been pointed out in the article, this is a largely undeveloped part of the USA where the dot-com bubble/bust/recovery never even happened at all. By all accounts it is a pretty sleepy part of America where national events pretty much pass them by, except perhaps the issue of illegal immigration (due to their proximity to Mexico).

There are some residents who are willing to take a modest gamble of raising taxes for a few years on the off chance that this whole idea of creating an interplanetary spaceport might turn their little hamlet into something similar to O'Hare airport in Chicago, where this could be one of the major if not supreme launch sites for interplanetary trade. Even in the relatively short term this means some significant high-tech jobs including launch technicians and other professionals who would bring in some significant income, which translates into people spending money at local auto dealers, grocery stores, building contractors, and the whole range of the local economy, not to mention a rise in the local tax base by wealthy individuals.

I'll also like to point out some geographical observations: Look at where big cities (and even smaller cities) are located at? They are at trans-shipment places between one form of transportation to another. New York City is a shipping transfer area originallly for moving ocean going traffc to riverboat traffic, and to ground shipments. With the invention of the railroad and later the airplane, these other transportation modes are also integral to New York City and has made it become the huge center of international trade that it has become. Even smaller cities throughout the Midwestern USA were often transshipment centers to and from the railroad where merchants could easily get their goods and sell them cheaply, and provided a synergy to encourage growth. Some of the larger cities in the midwest are even located on larger rivers, and this is more than just a coincidence. Add in interstate highways and you got yet another major trans-shipment point to encourge/discourage growth of a city.

So here you have the opportunity to potentially be at still another different transportation system, and one that requries as much manual handling of cargo as going between sea and land transportation systems. Even if other U.S. cities get involved with this, the number of potential sites is going to be rather limited. And in this case, because of lattitude, New York City is going to be left out of the early running this time. People from New York are going to be going to New Mexico because of this spaceport.

Of course if you are of the attitude that this sleepy hamlet in New Mexico has the lifestyle you like already and you want to keep it that way, this whole idea of massive growth and millions of people moving in as neighbors may not seem as a good idea. It is also a good possibility that this whole thing may be a premature pipe-dream and that other cities (like in Texas or Virginia) might make better spaceports. And with that all of this extra tax money is just pouring money needlessly down a bureaucratic black hole.

Resident's report on Doña Ana county (3, Insightful)

clintp (5169) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642183)

My parents live in the county, I went to university there, and travel there occasionally.

Doña Ana county is home to a boom town -- Las Cruces. And unlike places like California and Las Vegas the boom hasn't died out. Hospitals, shopping, roads, banks, and all kinds of other infrastructure are popping up all over.

Las Cruces (the county seat) is about 45 minutes from El Paso, TX. There's a fairly large university there (NMSU) and no shortage of people looking for work.

Best of all -- for a spaceport -- there's land near this infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land, sparsely populated.

It's a great place to build a spaceport.

Re:Resident's report on Doña Ana county (2, Insightful)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642889)

It's also dirt poor. I spent 35 of my first 40 years there. If you didn't teach at NMSU(my Dad was in the College of Ag.), work for a contractor at White Sands Missle Range, own one of the large farms, or your own business, it was a struggle. The prevailing attitude into the 80's was: you don't want to work for min. wage? There are 16,000 college kids who will and if they won't there are 25,000 wets(illegal aliens) that will work for less! The per capita income in NM is in the bottom 5 in the country. Most of the growth involves retirees and their pensions avoiding snow. Thats why I left in 97. It is beautiful and was great for a kid to grow up there, but to make a living got harder and harder. Taxes are high, cost of living moderate. Find a way to make over $50,000 and be very comfortable.

It's logical to put the spaceport there do to so much open land, a good engineering school and the contractors at White Sands. Any job growth will be a big boost to the area. Being 4,000 feet above sea level doesn't hurt either. The biggest negative I can think of is the spring winds. From the west at an average of 30mph form 1 Feb. to 1 June with gusts to 80+ more common than you would believe. Keep a car for 5 years and replace the windshield due to sandblasting! Been there, done that!

Re:Resident's report on Doña Ana county (1)

n6kuy (172098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18643117)

I been through Las Cruces several times. Lots of new housing going up right now.

There must be a city ordinance that everyone has to have a rock wall around their property...

Bungee Tourism (1)

pcardno (450934) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642297)

So, about 300 people a year are going to turn up for the reverse experience of bungee jumping. And each one of them's going to spend a shitlot of money on tourist products? "New Mexico was so bad I left the planet!" t-shirts? Unless they're planning to sell replica spaceships that actually go into space at $3m per boat, what the hell are they going to do to make tourist money?

"This ain't a trailer. It's a space trailer!"

Re:Bungee Tourism (2, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642495)

So, about 300 people a year are going to turn up for the reverse experience of bungee jumping. And each one of them's going to spend a shitlot of money on tourist products? "New Mexico was so bad I left the planet!" t-shirts? Unless they're planning to sell replica spaceships that actually go into space at $3m per boat, what the hell are they going to do to make tourist money?
Quite right. Maintaining a spaceport or the R&D facilities that are sure to spring up around it isn't going to generate any jobs or wealth. The spaceships are going to design and maintain themselves, you know.

I was there... (2, Informative)

J05H (5625) | more than 7 years ago | (#18642305)

and I saw it. At the X Prize Cup. Dona Ana county is really pretty, and there's a lot of support for building Spaceport America there. It's great that they are figuring it out, D. Kent Evans (the county commish) and everyone else deserve a huge pat on the back for this. The area is mostly agricultural, the spaceport (and X Prize, rocket races, etc) promise to bring both tech and service jobs to the area. Suborbital flights are only the beginning, if rocket racing or orbital shots become feasible they can be hosted there as well.

You can read my review of the X Prize Cup event, from a vendor/small biz perspective here:
http://www.postcardstospace.com/xprizecup.html [postcardstospace.com]

Anyway, we return you to your regularly scheduled flamewar...

Josh

New Mexico a great place for Virgin Galactic (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18642903)

For those of you who don't know Southern New Mexico is the birth place of space flight and military expertise in the United States. After World War II many Germen scientist moved here and White Sands Missile Range was born; the biggest land based testing range for missile and rocket technology in the US. New Mexico State University is an engineering power house and lots of engineering students will probably have plenty of opportunities to learn and work with Virgin Galactic while they are attending school . A reason Virgin Galactic is here is because of the rocket/missile expertise that exists in the area. Holloman Air force Base is also in the area where the F-117 is based and the future home of the F/A-22. NASA also has a huge testing facility here. If you want to launch rockets this is the place to do it.

Maybe not the first... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18642917)

Years ago I visited a camp grounds in Erie PA that was billed as the "First Official UFO Landing Port". Since it was on commercial property and was a "space port", wouldn't it have been the first?

Why New Mexico? (1, Funny)

n6kuy (172098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18643103)

You'd think that "Spaceport America" would be located somewhere in the United States!
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