Virgin Galactic Dangles Free Spaceflight in Front of NM Voters

Only days before a crucial public vote on funding Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic has dangled the offer of one free spaceflight per year if residents approve a tax increase to help fund the spaceport.

The Las Cruces Sun-Times, quoting an Albuquerque Journal story, reports that Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn made the offer on Tuesday during a public forum in Truth or Consequences. The London-based company is expected to be an anchor tenant at the desert facility.

Voters in T or C and throughout Sierra County will go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on a .25 cent increase in the gross receipts tax. Approval is required to form a three-county tax district with Doña Ana and Otera counties.

Only one resident in the three counties would be able to go on a suborbital flight per year. The flights are being retailed at $200,000 each.

The vote in Sierra County is expected to be close, as was the one last year in Doña Ana County. (Otera residents have yet to vote.) The sprawling, sparsely populated county has about 12,600 residents, one in five of whom live below the poverty line. More than 28 percent of residents are 65 years or older. And Sierra County’s median household income in 2004 was only $23,821, less than two-thirds of New Mexico’s $37,838 median income.