Founded in 1961, Johnson Space Center in Houston was a hub of aerospace activity in the 1960s and 70s. The facility trained the astronauts who first walked on the moon and helped develop the Space Shuttle program. Then Kennedy Space Center at Florida’s Cape Canaveral came online in 1962 and became the epicenter of space exploration during the 80s and 90s. So where is America’s next spaceport?
The Mojave Air & Space Port sits in the middle of the California desert and it’s already attracting new legions of ambitious young rocketeers and space scientists.
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 blasting rockets off into the wild blue yonder.
Look around and you’ll find not only genius scientists but inventors and space engineers of every type. At one end of the spectrum, small groups of rocketeers launching their first DIY experiments. At the other end, well-financed corporations planning how to make space travel (including space tourism) and the further exploration of space into profit-making enterprises that could also help unlock the mysteries of the universe.
NASA’s New Business Model
The Mojave Air & Space Port is a new idea for a tougher economic age. The business of space exploration has changed dramatically lately with NASA’s decision to end America’s space shuttle program. In essence, NASA has been cutting away some of its more expensive programs as a means of making America’s space agency financially leaner and more sound. The space shuttle and its operation was intensive and costly. 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 fills 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).
See Outer Space (And Be Back for Dinner)
Each company based at the Mojave Air & Space Port has a stake of some kind in space travel. Branson’s company, for example, plans to be the first to fly space tourists into low-levels of outer space via space shuttle-like craft. These passengers would take off from landing strips on the desert floor and embark on short, multi-hour excursions to the nearest edge of outer space. The ultimate in sight-seeing—a quick trip out of this world and then back down to earth in time for dinner.
Other companies are busily tinkering with exploration and cargo-transport projects, in hopes of winning contracts with NASA itself. As the agency embraces its new business model, that means that (like many corporations these days) NASA will be outsourcing some of its activities to private space contractors.
Boldly Going to Space Camp
While the Space Shuttle program may have ended, 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.
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