Weekend roundup

Is Virgin Galactic only accepting US citizens now? That’s the claim of an article Sunday in the Irish Independent, which reports that an Irishman living in England “received a legal notice from Virgin Galactic stating that at present only US citizens can be considered for inclusion.” The company has signed up and accepted deposits from a number of people outside the US, so it’s not clear what would cause this change in direction, if in fact correct. The obvious concern would be something having to do with US export control regulations, but Bigelow Aerospace won a ruling last year that ITAR-related agreements were not needed for prospective spaceflight participants.

Even without that issue, Bruce Dickinson isn’t interested in flying on Virgin Galactic. The 52-year-old British lead singer of Iron Maiden, who is a licensed commercial pilot and Star Trek fan, would seem to be in the ideal demographic for space tourism, but he tells QMI Media he’s not interested right now because of price and safety issues. “I think I’d want to take a long hard look at those little suborbital things before I got on one,” he said. “And for the amount of money it costs, well, I could think of a lot of things you could do that would be a lot more fun, and last a lot longer.”

Those who do want to, and are able to, fly on Virgin Galactic may be able to enjoy a little bit of a shortcut to Spaceport America. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority approved Friday a proposal to pave a road on the southern approach to the spaceport. The road, from the Upham exit on I-25, will shorten the travel time for people coming to the spaceport from Las Cruces from one hour and 40 minutes down to one hour as they will no longer have to take the current northern approach through Truth and Consequences. The money for paving the road comes from “unexpected savings” on other aspects of the project because of a “good bid climate”, freeing up the $11.5 million needed for the paving.

That decision, as well as the FAA’s award of a commercial space transportation “center of excellence” to New Mexico State University, get the seal of approval of the Las Cruces Sun-News in an editorial Sunday. With a greater emphasis on commercial spaceflight emerging in national space policy, “NMSU and Spaceport America are poised to lead the way in a burgeoning new industry with limitless potential.”

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