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Utah company helps spaceport get runway ready for takeoff


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NEAR TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. — A small town in New Mexico is hoping a commercial spaceport will revive the community and bring in big names.

As Spaceport America gets its launchpad ready to sustain flights, the facility has high hopes for the future.

"Looking at the future, what would a commercial spaceport look like?" said Christine Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. "I view this really as a showcase the future."

The spaceport is attracting international attention. There's a hangar and terminal facility designed by the architects of the Sydney Opera House and a mission control center where space operations will occur. The crash crews are ready, Anderson said, just in case something goes wrong.

To accommodate daily departures and arrivals, there's a 12,000-foot long runway .

"(It's) pretty spectacular," Anderson said. "We call it the spaceway rather than the runway."

A crew of Utahns from A-Core Concrete Cutting was hired to put on some finishing touches on the runway.

"We are grooving the runway for traction," said Tyson Porter with the company.

New Mexico taxpayers chipped in more than $200 million to build the facility. It's something new and monumental: it's the first commercial passenger flights into space.

Tickets started at $200,000 apiece, but now it's about $250,000. Anderson said some tickets have sold for nearly $600,000.

The seller is Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Galactic. His SpaceShipTwo had a successful test flight several weeks ago.

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Hollywood A-listers are among the tickets' top buyers — Virgin Galactic has publicly confirmed Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher, Russell Brand and Justin Bieber.

Paying customers will get about 5 minutes of weightlessness at the edge of space in a sub-orbital flight only 70 miles high.

In nearby Truth or Consequences, N.M., residents are hoping the excitement of space travel and celebrity star-gazing will revive their economy.

"I think it will do this town a lot of good if it gets going," said resident Gary Freeborn.

For others, it's about more than just the town.

"I think it's good for the country and we need to explore space," said resident Patty Batavia.

Spaceport America officials say they will be ready when Virgin Galactic is ready. Branson recently said the company could be ready as early as Dec. 25.

Spaceport America already welcomes tourists Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. A visitor center is slated to open in 2014.

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John Hollenhorst

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