A Brief History of Spaceport America

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

UPDATED: 8/20/19, 12:08 p.m. PDT

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Sometime in 2020, if all goes according to plan, British billionaire Richard Branson will board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity at Spaceport America in New Mexico and take the first commercial suborbital space flight in history.

The landmark flight, which Virgin has been trying to conduct for 15 years, will also be the culmination of a 30-year effort by New Mexico to become a commercial space power.

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Apollo 12 & Skylab Astronaut Alan Bean Passes Away at 86

Alan Bean (Credit: NASA)

Astronaut Alan Bean has passed away at the age of 86. Bean walked on the moon and commanded a Skylab crew before becoming an accomplished painter.

Below is a NASA biography of him.


Alan Bean walked on the moon on Apollo 12, commanded the second Skylab crew and then resigned after 18 years as an astronaut to paint the remarkable worlds and sights he had seen.

Bean was lunar module pilot on the November 1969 Apollo 12 mission, the second moon landing.  He and mission commander Pete Conrad explored on the lunar Ocean of Storms and set up several experiments powered by a small nuclear generator.

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A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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We’re Losing Our Apollo Astronauts

Astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon with Charles “Pete” Conrad before their Gemini 10 mission. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon, who died on Monday at the age of 88, was the third Apollo-era astronaut to pass away this year and the second who was involved in a lunar mission.

Gordon was command module pilot for Apollo 12, which saw Pete Conrad and Alan Bean walk on the moon in November 1969. Gordon stayed in orbit aboard aboard the command service module Yankee Clipper while his colleagues explored the lunar surface. It was the second and final spaceflight for Gordon, who flew aboard Gemini 10 with Conrad three years earlier.

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Apollo 12 Astronaut Dick Gordon Passes Away at 88

Astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon in his Apollo spacesuit. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Former NASA astronaut Richard Gordon, command module pilot on Apollo 12, the second lunar landing mission, passed away on Nov. 6, 2017.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement on Gordon’s passing: “NASA and the nation have lost one of our early space pioneers. We send our condolences to the family and loved ones of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Richard Gordon, a hero from NASA’s third class of astronauts.”
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NASA Astronaut Paul Weitz Passes Away at 85

In this June 1973 photograph, Skylab 2 pilot Paul J. Weitz operates the control and display console of the Apollo Telescope Mount solar observatory. (Credit: NASA)

Skylab and space shuttle astronaut Paul J. Weitz has passed away from cancer. He was 85.

Weitz, who served in the United States Navy and retired as a captain in 1976, was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. His NASA career lasted 28 years and included two space flights.

Weitz was part of the first Skylab crew along with commander Pete Conrad and science-pilot Joe Kerwin in 1973. The crew saved the station, which suffered damage after a solar wing deployed during launch. The wing was ripped away along with a heat shield; the other solar wing was pinned to the station by debris.

The crew deployed a solar shade to bring down temperatures inside the laboratory and freed the remaining solar wing during a space walk. Weitz and his crew mates splashed down on June 22, 1973 after a record 28 days in space.

Weitz commanded STS-6, the first flight of Space Shuttle Challenger, which launched on April 4, 1983, and landed on April 9. The mission’s primary payload was the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, a new NASA satellite that would revolutionize low-Earth orbit communications forever.

Mr. Weitz also served as Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center. He retired from NASA in 1994.











Deadlines Looming for Clarke and Conrad Awards

The dealines for two major space awards are coming up in the next month. The Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award is a competition for high school students to develop innovative products for use in personal spaceflight, exploring the moon, or producing clean energy. All team submission documents must be uploaded through the website before 12:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, January 9th, 2009.

The Sir Arthur Clarke Awards honor space achievement in about a dozen different categories. The deadline for nominations is December 31.