A New Mexico bus-tour company is getting in on the ground floor - literally -- of the coming space tourism industry by selling excursions to what is likely to be the first spaceport to send tourists to the edge of space.
Follow the Sun Inc., of Albuquerque is offering three-hour guided tours of Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic is gearing up to operate its SpaceShipTwo suborbital rocket for six paying passengers at a time.
The tours, which will originate in Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte, N.M., will include stops at the state-owned launch facility, which is nearing completion in the New Mexico desert west of White Sands National Monument. Follow the Sun will charge $59 for adults, and $29 for children under 12, and offer information about the history of the area dating back to Native America and the arrival of Spanish and other European settlers, in addition to details of spaceport plans.
By comparison, Virgin is charging $200,000 for a ride on SpaceShipTwo.
Twice-daily ground tours started today, and are planned to operate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The tour company says it will begin offering tours from Alburquerque and Las Cruces, N.M., later this year.
In addition to developing ground facilities for Virgin Galactic, spaceport managers also are holding discussions about added commercial operations with other companies, including Lockheed Martin, Armadillo Aerospace, Moog-FTS and UP Aerospace.
Virgin is in the process of hiring pilots for the air-launched SpaceShipTwo, and is conducting stepwise evaluation of the spaceplane's gliding ability in drop tests from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.