Officially declared operational on 18 October 2011, Spaceport America is located in the desert of New Mexico. The company Virgin Galactic intends to offer sub-orbital flights in zero gravity on board the shuttle SpaceShipTwo. The sinuous shape of the terminal building against the surrounding landscape and its internal spaces seek to capture the charm and mystery of space flight, recreating the thrill of space travel for the first space tourists. Using local materials and building techniques, it is both sustainable and sensitive towards its surroundings. The building is a low construction standing in the desert scenery of New Mexico and the organic shape of the terminal, like a plateau on the landscape, can be seen from the historic trail of El Camino Real. This amazing complex has been organised with a highly efficient and rational layout. The site occupies a surface area of approximately twenty-seven square miles and has a two-mile long runway, a futuristic terminal and dome-shaped operations centre. The Spaceport is circular in shape, like a stylised disk on which a kind of spacecraft sits. This building houses the terminal, commercial activities, visitor centre and control tower. The Spaceport has been designed to relate to the dimensions of the spacecraft. The astronauts' areas and visitor spaces are fully integrated with the rest of the building to convey the thrill of space travel. The more sensitive zones - such as the control room - are visible but have limited access. Visitors and astronauts enter the building via a deep channel cut into the landscape. The retaining walls form an exhibition space that documents the history of the region and its settlers, alongside a history of space exploration. The strong linear axis continues on a galleried level that crosses the entire terminal to the super hangar - which houses the spacecraft - and the flight simulation room. The building was designed to reduce carbon emissions to a minimum and exploit various forms of alternative energy. The low-lying form is dug into the landscape to exploit the thermal mass, which buffers the building from the extremes of the New Mexico climate as well as catching the westerly winds for ventilation. Natural light enters through skylights and, at the end of the terminal, there is a glazed façade with views over the runway. The space travel programme includes three days of physical preparation and medical checks, while once in orbit the amateur astronauts can admire the views of space and the Earth below, an experience until now only reserved for professional astronauts. Guests of Virgin Galactic can also, before returning to base, enjoy the experience of weightlessness for approximately five minutes. The first space tourists will be able to leave the New Mexico desert between 2012 and 2013. With a price tag of $200,000 dollars, the entire flight will last two and a half hours and offer sensations never experienced before: floating in space and seeing the Earth from space. Thanks to this spaceport, the future is already here!
I primi turisti spaziali potranno volare nell’alta atmosfera e provare sensazioni mai provate prima: fluttuare in assenza di gravità e vedere la Terra dallo spazio. The first space tourists will be able to fly and feel sensations never experienced before: floating in space and seeing the Earth from space. Per ulteriori informazioni/ For further information: spaceportamerica.com