Writer has doubts over Spaceport’s future

SIERRA COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Built for a billionaire to rocket the rich into a space fantasy, Spaceport America sounded like a grand idea.

The promises to send the elite into the heavens keep getting pushed back, and now a local writer’s article that calls it all a failure is getting a lot of attention.

The article, titled “Failure to Launch,” was featured on BuzzFeed and criticizes billionaire Richard Branson’s idea that’s been nearly a decade in the making.

Located roughly 20 miles south and east of Truth or Consequences, Spaceport America sits mostly idol.

Branson, CEO of Virgin Galactic, had promised at least 3,000 flights from the Spaceport, some 70 miles high, by 2012. Two years later, not one flight has launched.

That’s exactly what the “Failure to Launch” article talks about.

The author, Joshua Wheeler, grew up in nearby Alamogordo and says New Mexico taxpayers have invested nearly a quarter of a billion dollars over the last 10 years into Spaceport America.

He calls it a “carnival for the one percent” and fears it could become the state’s costliest ghost town.

A ticket to space costs nearly $200,000 and about 700 people have signed up.

The article has gotten a lot of attention, being picked up by other websites, including blogs.

Sierra County Manager Mark Huntzinger says he hasn’t given up faith in the project and believes it could transform southern New Mexico for the better.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a bust, it’s a great potential,” Huntzinger said in a phone interview. “The facilities are there. It just needs the tenants to make a it a success.”

KRQE News 13 reached out to New Mexico’s tourism department for a comment. They say they expect the Spaceport to bring in more tourists, including people just coming to watch.

Huntzinger says the delays don’t trouble him. He worries about safety and says if it takes more time, that’s OK.

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