Rare, inside look at Spaceport America ahead of launch

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SIERRA COUNTY, N.M. – A historic space launch is set for Thursday at New Mexico’s Spaceport America, the first with only civilian passengers. 

KOB 4 got a rare inside look at the facility in Sierra County on Wednesday, seeing the flight simulator the pilots use and mission control. Very few people outside of employees have seen those highly-restricted areas in the state-of-the-art facility. 

This will be the second commercial spaceflight in southern New Mexico for Virgin Galactic and the first without research. 

There will be three civilian customers, including a mother-daughter duo who won a lottery. They will be the first people from the Caribbean to go to space. 

“I’m hoping to give myself that confidence to try new things,” the 18-year-old daughter said.

For these astronomy buffs, it’s living out a childhood dream.

“Hopefully this will inspire other people as well. Take your dreams back out, conquer your fears and go get them,” the mother said. 

The third passenger is an 80-year-old former Olympian from England, who’s also battling Parkinson’s. 

“It just shows you this attitude, ‘Space for all,’ is a wonderful attitude,” he said. 

Rigorous training has prepared them for the launch, and three minutes of weightlessness. The flight is set to last about 90 minutes. 

The event is getting worldwide attention. Media members from all over the world are in New Mexico to see it. 

It’s a part of British billionaire Richard Branson’s goal to make space travel accessible for everyone. He’s making use of the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that went into the Spaceport.

Economic experts say the industry could have a positive impact on New Mexico, including in nearby Truth or Consequences. 

There are 800 people on Virgin Galactic’s waitlist, and ticket prices are now at almost half-a-billion dollars. 

The goal is to do tourism flights once a month, build up to 400 each year – and to let the public watch. 

The launch is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday. 

KOB 4’s coverage will continue in the Thursday morning show starting at 4:30 a.m.