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Flying to the Future

Spaceport Colorado could open new doors for tourism, transportation, and research.

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Only 543 people have flown in space since the first human mission (by Russia) in 1961. But by next year, that figure could more than double. At last check, the wait list for a ride from Virgin Galactic’s New Mexico spaceport (ticket price: $250,000) topped 700. The demand for space tourism has Colorado sprinting to enter the industry. The state’s first project: Spaceport Colorado at Front Range Airport in Adams County.

Before anyone starts punching tickets, the Federal Aviation Administration must sign off. This spring, Spaceport Colorado will apply to become one of fewer than 20 spaceports in the United States. With the required training, additional licensing, and work to extend runways and upgrade taxiways for suborbital flights (meaning crafts stay within Earth’s gravitational pull), the first journey likely remains three to five years away even if Spaceport Colorado gets the go-ahead. Most trips, which will average 90 minutes, will have a medical research and development directive, such as measuring bacteria growth rates in zero gravity. Rapid point-to-point travel—like, say, a two-hour flight from Denver to Tokyo—is still 10 to 15 years away. Should be just enough time to save up for the estimated six-digit ticket price.

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