LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Fifty years ago, man was preparing to land on the moon — but today, southern New Mexico may be just months away from commercial space flight and with it, space tourism.
The city of Las Cruces is embracing the next chapter of the space age, preparing for the tourism Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic are expected to bring.
"We're going to be on the global view now," said Jamila Gilbert, director of marketing and communication for Visit Las Cruces.
Walking through downtown Las Cruces, one can see the community is excited for the newly expected recognition, with signs around the city describing it as "A Place For Space."
“We have 3 companies, including Virgin Galactic who are all frankly racing to do commercial airspace travel," New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham said. "It’s all going to happen in New Mexico first.”
Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic's headquarters, is just 50 miles north of Las Cruces. As ABC-7 first reported, space flights are scheduled to start next year, bringing with them the promise of space tourism to the city.
“We are thrilled that we came open at the time we did," said Amy Miller, General Manager for the newly opened Courtyard Marriott off University Avenue. "Right at the same time that Virgin Galactic is opening at Spaceport America and is going to be starting their launches.”
But her hotel isn't the only hotel hoping to benefit from the space tourism. Hotel El Encanto is the designated hotel for Virgin Galactic astronauts.
Mandy Guss, the economic development director for Las Cruces, is excited for the economic impact space travelers are expected to bring with them.
“They bring with them money and the money that goes back into our community," she said. "So they're spending in our businesses. They’re spending and the tax money is coming back to the city, so we can reinvest in infrastructure.”
Guss also said Virgin Galactic's move to the Spaceport has brought about 100 new families to the Las Cruces area; these are people who work for Virgin Galactic and spend money in the city. It's another long-term benefit brought to Las Cruces by the space industry, she said.