Johnson Space Center in Houston was a beehive of aerospace activity in the 1960s and 70s. The facility trained the astronauts who first walked on the moon and also helped develop the Space Shuttle program.
Then Kennedy Space Center at Florida’s Cape Canaveral came online in 1962, eventually becoming the epicenter of American space exploration during the 80s and 90s.
So where is America’s next spaceport, now that NASA has scaled back its manned-launch activities?
If you want to see where the future takes flight, this is it, approximately 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The Mojave Air & Space Port compound is a former military base that occupies some 3,300 acres and is home to about 100 aircraft hangars.
The flat desert terrain provides a great location for the 2-mile-long runway. And there’s lots of room for launching rockets. And storing acres of out-of-service 747s.
In a 2012 test sponsored by NASA, this Xombie suborbital rocket was launched at Mojave, rising 164 feet. Then it moved laterally 164 feet, before landing on a launch pad after more than a minute in flight.
NASA’s New Reality
The Mojave Air & Space Port was a new idea for a tougher economic age. The business of space exploration changed dramatically with NASA’s decision to end America’s Space Shuttle program. Although NASA is still sponsoring unmanned explorations (such as the Mars Rover project, and its probe to Venus), the days of U.S. space shuttles transporting cargo and people into space—at least for now—are over.
The Mojave Air & Space Port has filled that gap by providing a location where all types of corporations and individuals can work on their various space-oriented projects. The concept for the space port was originated by Virgin corporation president, Richard Branson. Branson, a thrill-seeker himself, was attracted to the idea, as were other corporate heads (such as Microsoft’s Paul Allen).
THE NEXT GENERATION OF AIRPORTS
Space exploration is too rich and diverse right now to be accommodated by one spaceport. Now numerous spaceports are being designed and built all over the Southwest.
Leading the pack is Spaceport America, calling itself “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.” A project sponsored by the State of New Mexico (and two of its counties), Spaceport America features a 12,000-ft. runway and lots of open surrounding area for the various buildings and infrastructure that will spring up around it.
There are also spaceports being planned for Houston, Texas, and Colorado. Clearly, spaceports are the airports of the future, and today’s Spaceport America will be tomorrow’s LAX or O’Hare International, especially as space tourism inevitably catches on and becomes a booming business that’s ripe for expansion. The sky is the limit.
Lift-off! This is what it looks like when a water rocket takes off in DMA’s rocket science camps.
Boldly Going…to Space Camp!
It’s the dawn of a new age in space exploration. For kids interested in space exploration, space camp is the place to start. At Digital Media Academy’s tech camp, kids learn science and engineering in a fun and creative way.
Blasting off water rockets and learning how things work can turn your curious child into an aeronautics engineer. After all, it’s the new generation of discoverers that will lead us into tomorrow…and deeper into the far reaches of space.
Adventures in Engineering & Rocket Science is just one of the many ultra-cool tech camps offered by Digital Media Academy.