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One giant leap toward space tourism in New Mexico

  • Story Highlights
  • New Mexico officials break ground on facility for space tourists
  • Cost for new facility is $200 million; it's completely funded by state
  • Virgin Galactic hopes to start space flights in 2010
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(CNN) -- The era when travelers will be able to catch a flight from New Mexico to outer space moved a step closer this week with the official start of construction of Spaceport America.

At a groundbreaking ceremony Friday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson talked about the world's first facility for space tourists.

"New Mexicans have stepped up to the plate by making this investment," Richardson said. "This groundbreaking ceremony is an important step toward our goal of being at the forefront of a vibrant, new commercial space industry."

The almost $200 million project is funded by the state. Once completed, British business magnate Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will begin taking tourists to space from the facility. Flights are expected to start in 2010.

Branson has said that he has a list of 45,000 people from 120 countries who have registered to take the space trips. It will cost $200,000 a ride, according to the Spaceport America Web site.

The spaceship will be connected to a specially designed carrier aircraft that will take it to about 50,000 feet, according to Virgin Galactic. The aircraft will release the spaceship, which will then use rockets to propel itself into space.

Virgin Galactic has envisioned one flight a week, with six tourists aboard.

The tourists will train for at least three days before going.

All About New MexicoVirgin Galactic Ltd.

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