Article by Lyndsey Kalson, Operations Manager of Bravo Mic Communications LLC, the parent company of LasCrucesToday.com
Sunday, July 11th, I got on a bus at 2:45 am at Ramada Palms to head out to Spaceport America for one of the most historic spaceflights launching Sir Richard Branson and his crew into sub-orbit. This was a big deal, both as a space-nerd and as a Las Cruces media person who has watched the history of Spaceport American unfold over the past 15 years. I remember voting “yes” to the Spaceport America tax in 2007. The radio station I moved to Las Cruces to work for was KXPZ, originally named by Bravo Mic Communications to reflect the X Prize, which back then, was a big deal for our area. The station was a rock format, and branded as The Rocket 99.5, “Southern New Mexico is home of the Rocket.” And New Mexico really is.
In 1947, the first American rocket was tested in our own backyard at White Sands Missile Range, still an active test facility for the U.S. Army today. NASA, Jacobs Technologies, and so many other companies have been calling our desert their home for pretty much all of humanity’s “space history.”
For more information about what the New Mexico Spaceport Authority really is, check out one of our past Community Spotlights with LasCrucesToday.com, the Las Cruces Space Festival, and Spaceport America-
I had a catch-up to talk with Bill McCamley, who was a Dona Ana County Commissioner in 2007 when discussion and public input were first being pushed for the idea of a New Mexico-owned “space facility.” A facility that could host aeronautics and science-driven companies in our area, creating jobs, funneling money into our economy on a local level, and offering a new home for private space industries to thrive. We citizens voted Yes. And we’re finally seeing the pay-off for what we voted for.
According to a report by our media partners at KVIA ABC 7, just the July 11th launch brought over $400,000 directly into the Las Cruces and T or C local economies through hotel, travel and food. That’s just part of the pay-off.
The full crew of Unity 22 successfully launched into weightless sub orbit at 8:30 am Sunday, July 11th, 2021 with a small crowd of guests and an even smaller crowd of the press. I was honored not only to be present for such an amazing event but also to be able to people-watch other journalists and people from all over the world come here, to our home in New Mexico, to be a part of it too. There is something about so many people and personalities coming together not only at the Spaceport, but also online all over the world, to celebrate the amazing advancements we’ve achieved since 1947.
So much has changed in the past 15 years. So much has grown in the past 15 years. It is so satisfying as a citizen of the world, and even more so as a citizen of the State of New Mexico, to see things we have cumulatively wanted start to happen.
LasCrucesToday.com and Bravo Mic Communications are proud to produce the official Spaceport America Podcast, host by Alice Carruth Public Relations Director for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, with new episodes monthly if you would like to keep up with the history and happenings of everything that is happening in our own “Place for Space.”
Virgin Galactic Successfully Completes First Fully Crewed Spaceflight
Fourth Spaceflight Tests Private Astronaut and Research Experience
First In-Flight Livestream Brings Spaceflight Experience to Audiences Around the World
LAS CRUCES, N.M. July 11, 2021 – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“the Company” or “Virgin Galactic”) today announced that VSS Unity successfully reached space, completing the Company’s fourth rocket-powered spaceflight.
Today’s flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America.
Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Today is a landmark achievement for the Company and a historic moment for the new commercial space industry. With each successful mission we are paving the way for the next generation of astronauts. I want to thank our talented team, including our pilots and crew, whose dedication and commitment made today possible. They are helping open the door for greater access to space – so it can be for the many and not just for the few.”
VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve. The vehicle reached space, at an altitude of 53.5 miles, before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America.
This seminal moment for Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson was witnessed by audiences around the world. It gave a glimpse of the journey Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts can expect when the Company launches commercial service following the completion of its test flight program. A recording of the livestream can be accessed on Virgin Galactic’s YouTube channel.
Sir Richard Branson said: “I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space. We are at the vanguard of a new space age. As Virgin’s founder, I was honoured to test the incredible customer experience as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists and now astronauts. I can’t wait to share this experience with aspiring astronauts around the world.”
Branson continued, “Our mission is to make space more accessible to all. In that spirit, and with today’s successful flight of VSS Unity, I’m thrilled to announce a partnership with Omaze and Space for Humanity to inspire the next generation of dreamers. For so long, we have looked back in wonder at the space pioneers of yesterday. Now, I want the astronauts of tomorrow to look forward and make their own dreams come true.”
The mission specialists in the cabin were Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor; Colin Bennett, Lead Flight Operations Engineer; Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations; and the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The VSS Unity pilots were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, while Kelly Latimer and CJ Sturckow piloted VMS Eve.
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