Luxury Space Travel? In This Economy, We Didn’t Think So

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REUTERS/Mark Greenberg-Virgin Galactic/Handout

Earth to New Mexico: Maybe that expensive investment in commercial space travel wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Back in 2006, before the American economy imploded, the state of New Mexico had a grand idea — to build the country’s first commercial space travel hub.

At the time it seemed like a no-brainer. Of course rich Americans would pay to travel to space! What else could they possibly waste (er, spend) their money on?

(More on NewsFeed: One company already booked a lunar vacation)

Propelled by a mix of state funding, county sales taxes and individuals who were willing to shell out $200K each to board one of the first celestial expeditions, Spaceport America was born. Almost five years later, none of the 400-plus people who put down flight deposits have yet to see Earth from outer space. As the state (and the federal government, for that matter) struggles to balance their budget, the New York Times reports that the space project is essentially grounded.

But is our dream of traveling to space for adventure and not just for science — as is the case with the shuttle Discovery, which launched Thursday — too far out there to become a reality?

(More on TIME.com: See the Virgin Galactic’s first trip in the top 10 travel moments of 2010.)

Not yet, according to New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. Although she recently disabled the Spaceport team, she’s still clinging to the hope that the project can secure the private funding it needs to take off. So far, Sir Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic, has signed on as an anchor tenant, funneling an obscene amount of money into sending Americans to space. And while the company’s reps have publicly stated that the first flights will launch in the next two years, we have to wager that the premier flight actually depends on our economic standing.

You know the saying, “Shoot for the moon and you will land among the stars”? In this case, it seems the only place the Virgin Galactic spacecraft is landing is right where it started — in the middle of the desert. (via New York Times)

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