POSTED: Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 11:44pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 12:10am
EL PASO- It's the beginning of a new era for commercial space travel.
Spaceport America is the world's first commercial spaceport and it's located 50 miles north of Las Cruces.
"The uniqueness of this blue sky, stable weather 340 days out of the year . We're standing under restricted airspace, it's part of the white sands facility, no commercial air traffic above us, " said Spaceport America spokesperson David Wilson.
Spaceport America represents a new chapter in history. The location is of historic meaning in New Mexico.
"The historic Camino Real trail comes right through the property. It will be a tourism attraction where the old world meets the new world,” said Wilson.
The spaceport will be home to Virgin Galactic. It's labeled as the world's first commercial space line that is expected to attract not only space passenger, but tourist and local jobs.
"We're a brand new industry, the commercial space industry is new. There are very few people participating in this right now and what this will do is help regenerate the area, provides high tech jobs. Provides other jobs as well.be that caterers, we will need to support our operation at Spaceport America,” said Virgin Galactic Vice President of Operations, Mark Butler. He relocated to New Mexico from England to help Virgin Galactic establish it's business.
"This is really the sort of the pinnacle of the Virgin activity at the moment. We're right at the forefront and it's really a bit like being back at the birth of aviation in many respects," said Butler.
Nearly 500 people have reserved their seat to space with Virgin Galactic. Tickets cost $200,000 each.
"Those are all customers who have dreamt of flying into space and see us as their best opportunity to achieve that," said Butler.
One of those passengers is a Texas native.
" I mean watching Apollo 11 blast off and then flying home and watching buzz Aldrin and Armstrong walk on the moon was pretty impactful," said Robert Vaughn. He will be one of the first 100 people to travel to space. As a teenager Vaughn witnessed the Apollo missions and felt inspired.
"Pushing the boundaries of man's knowledge and the existence out into space. It just really tweaked my interest and curiosity. Obviously it'll be advancing science for the benefit of mankind," said Vaughn.
On the ground, the impact is igniting the local job market.
“When the spaceport finally gets completed we're looking at probably between 800-1000 new jobs not to mention the ones that are going on during building the construction phase of it," said Workforce Solutions Site Manager, Richard Wagner.
"It can be an attraction for the area and for the whole nation," said Wagner.
The space grant consortium on the campus of New Mexico State University has already benefited.
"My students who get interviewed by companies Boeing, Lockheed Martin and NASA. They get interviewed and they tell NASA or Boeing what they've done. I signed, built and flew an experiment in a year and it did go to space," said program director Doctor Pat Hynes.
Doctor Hynes says her students have already sent 67 experiments into space.
"We have a great diversity of programs that allow us to help grow the commercial space transportation industry," said Doctor Hynes.
Her students aren't the only ones benefiting. Nearby high schools, and community colleges partner with Spaceport America to intrigue young minds.
" It sorta made me realize that you can stay close to home, go to college here and you're still gonna get the greatest education and there's gonna be a job for you afterwards," said high school student Dakota Burrow.
"I think it's a great time to be a New Mexican obviously and to be a citizen in this area because it's like exploring the wild wild west," said Wagner.