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NASA Space

Space Travel For the 1%: Virgin Galactic's $250,000 Tickets Haunt New Mexico Town 239

The Real Dr John writes: The Guardian has an article about Virgin Galactic's proposed launch site, Spaceport America, which broke ground in southern New Mexico's high desert in 2009 with almost a quarter of a billion dollars from taxpayers, $76m of which came from the two local counties. Truth or Consequences, population 6,000 and home to the Spaceport America Visitor Center, is one of the poorest places in the state. The increased taxes, adopted across impoverished Sierra County, contributed to about $5m as of 2014. Since 2009, state school budgets have been cut and an estimated $26m in necessary repairs to the town's water system has been put on hold. There's no more money to pay for it. The average annual income of residents is just $15,000 per year, one third of residents live below the poverty line, and just 20% over the age of 25 have obtained a bachelor's degree.
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Space Travel For the 1%: Virgin Galactic's $250,000 Tickets Haunt New Mexico Town

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  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Monday October 05, 2015 @10:17PM (#50667027)
    This is how crony America works. They took our jerbs [youtube.com]
  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @10:17PM (#50667031)

    Stop the presses, we got a hot one here.

  • by towermac ( 752159 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @11:00PM (#50667207)

    TFA doesn't explain or link as to how VG caused the citizens to vote a tax increase upon themselves. If that was the deal, I would have recommended against it. Especially the part about the schools and water system.

    You know, I bet that wasn't the deal. I bet that closer to the truth, is that the town, county, and state fell all over themselves offering all kinds of crazy shit. Those people gambled, and they lost.

    Sort of like Virgin Galactic lost their ship, momentum, place in the space race, shit tons of cash; and so on. I believe one of their people actually died. All those townspeople lost was their self respect, and maybe some money, that their elected officials spent. I don't think VG has made any sort of profit on this town.

    So to make out like the evil corporation took advantage of the ignorant little podunk town is really stretching the truth here.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      how VG caused the citizens to vote a tax increase upon themselves

      Typically it works like:
      1) Promise shitloads of "job creation" to get the vote.
      2) Hire the few dozen/hundred manual laborers you need at the lowest wage you can possibly pay in the area, for the period of construction.
      3) Bring in your own staff for any skilled jobs.
      4) Lay off all of the locals once construction is done.

      It happens time and again everywhere -- the town will lay down massive incentives that they'll be paying off for decades in order to get a couple years of shit jobs for a small portion of the

  • by zr ( 19885 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @11:03PM (#50667219)

    the flight takes you up to about 110 km, which is barely enough to see curvature of the earth.

    what virgin are doing is going to make for a spectacular flight but space flight it is not.

    • the flight takes you up to about 110 km, which is barely enough to see curvature of the earth.

      I can see the curvature of the earth in an airplane at 10km up. Easily. There are plenty of videos of balloons going up to the 100km level and you can see space as well as a huge part of earth from there.

      It's not really "space", but you can see it from there.

  • the usual (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @11:22PM (#50667343)

    This is exactly the kind of bullshit that newspapers like The Guardian usually promote: massive government spending on so-called infrastructure. Heck, the local town residents were even willing to vote tax increases for this.

    For a "spaceport", The Guardian recognizes the absurdity of it only out of their general hostility to science and engineering. But California high speed rail, sports stadiums, schools, urban renewal, and a lot of other "infrastructure projects" are just the same kind of boondoggle.

  • 1%? (Score:4, Informative)

    by konohitowa ( 220547 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:02AM (#50667495) Journal
    As a 1%-er (it only takes a dual engineering income) there's not a chance in hell this would be affordable. Can we stop with this stupid label? I expect it from the OWS crowd and others lacking in critical thinking skills. I don't expect it at a site that claims to be for nerds.
    • it only takes a dual engineering income

      I'm shocked (and a little frightened) about how many people don't know this. And I really don't think /. has been for nerds for a while now.

    • by godrik ( 1287354 )

      Isn't the top-1% in the US around $400K a year? If so, a $250,000 space trip is not that crazy.

      $400K/year is the kind of salary that strat getting a high investment/expense ratio. Also the kind of salary that eventually buy $200,000 cars. So a once in a lifetime $250,000 expense is not necessarily out of the question.

      • This project will probably either fail on its own, or the price will eventually come down from 250K and if I had the luxury of being a bottom-of-the- 1% er, I would wait about 10 years and see how this pans out. Let the Bieber take the first ride. Also for 250K, you could get a pretty nice private airplane and fly your heart out.
      • I just checked and it's $350K, so I'm actually a 1.5%-er. You know, which makes it all better somehow.
  • by RubberDogBone ( 851604 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @07:38AM (#50669123)

    Typical story. Some developer (as in land, not software) comes to a pudunk rural town and talks up a big plan to make something new and big and famous, and have money for new schools ("Hey that old 1950's school... wouldn't you like a nice new one? With me you can have it and more!") but he wants something from the locals, and well, it's fine if they don't want to be a part of it, he'll understand and talk to another town that is interested. And you, the developer says, the first ones to jump on this will make a fortune! Think about it!

    And the locals hem and haw and debate about finally getting a shot at being something and they stretch real hard and throw in their pennies and agree to it.

    Great, the developer says! We'll break ground immediately. And then something happens or it takes too long but oh well, to the developer it's merely one of many deals and he moves on. The town cannot move on. It chased a load of promises and dreams and pays dearly for it.

    Branson doesn't have a great track record with successful projects. People hear about the airlines and things but not so much about the abject flops. But he's so good at promoting his brand, which is himself, nobody notices. He and Donald Trump are very similar. They both talk big and quietly bury their failures.

  • So what is it all about? Seriously. TFA is tl;dr

    Ok, Virgin Galactic offers $250k space trips for the rich and poor people are poor. But the rest is a jumble of facts with little relationship between them. It looks like the goal is to create an emotional response by contrasting the luxury of space tourism vs the poor conditions some people live in. But what is the underlying story (or non-story)?

    My guess is that some poor town invested in that spaceport in an attempt to build an economy around it (tourism, s

  • Sierra, which is where TorC is, Dona Ana, which is where Las Cruces and New Mexico State is, and at one point Otero, which has Alamogordo and both part of White Sands and Holloman AFB. The increase of a gross receipts tax increase (effectively a sales tax, but on services as well as goods) was required to be approved by the voters and was, back in 2008. The biggest economic drivers in those counties are NMSU/Las Cruces and the various Federal installations like Holloman AFB, White Sands Missile Range, Ft. B

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