RETRO-VISIONARY SPACEPORT May 3
By S. Derrickson Moore
Ah, Spaceport style.
It’s a new frontier for Las Cruces regional style, and in fact, for the world.
After another day at Spaceport America, I was racking my brain for a descriptive phrase that captured the essence, the ambiance, the je ne sais quois of the place.
It finally came to me when I was boldly — lamely, actually — going through spaces where no media person has gone before (at least on this particular press junket). I was there to preview new exhibits slated to open in June, at the Spaceport Visitor Center in downtown Truth or Consequences, and at April’s isolated Spaceport America tour site, the upstairs exhibit portion of the 120,000-square-foot Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building, a combined terminal and hangar facility.
I realized my still-waiting-for-test-results, impaired knee would probably not appreciate climbing several flights up and down stairs to a SpaceShipTwo hangar media conference site.
To see if there was another way to get from here to there, I asked Virgin Galactic’s Chelsea Green, who may have the coolest job title on the planet: Terrestrial Experience Designer.
She revealed that it was her second awesome, out-this-world-title: the first was “astronaut sales.” Her business card was cosmic, too: the distinctive Virgin logo in the center of what looked like some sort of cosmic nebula but was, she revealed, based on a photo of each staffer’s eye.
She graciously offered to take me to an elevator, with the caution that photographs weren’t allowed in the regions of the vast building we’d be going through, after gaining access through what struck me as a super cool, secret hidden panel worthy of a futuristic castle in a galaxy long ago and far, far away. I kept my promise and didn’t Tout or Tweet or Instagram, so we’ll have to make do with the thousand words, rather than the picture.
Or maybe it won’t take quite that many. It was bright, shiny, white. White-white, like the rest of the interior of the building, and its Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo replica, waiting patiently to be replaced by the real thing, in its white-white hangar. The offices and conference areas were white, and so were what looked like cubicles and storage areas and desks, all in lovely, graceful, free-form, retro-visionary shapes.
It put me in mind of all-white futuristic scenes from Woody Allen movies of the early 1970s, of our first glimpses of Tomorrowland at Disneyland, when we were tiny tots, watching the Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s. Of the bright, white boots, mod fashions and furnishings coming out of swinging London and New York in the 1960s.
It was our idea of what the future would look like, best-case scenario, when we were little kids.
I loved it then, and I love it now, and I can understand why Richard Branson loves it, too. We’re about the same vintage and came into our spacey salad days with the same style influences.
The building’s exterior, by the by, is not white-white, but still fits nicely into its own retro-visionary niche. True to its LEED Platinum accredited, eco-friendly status inside and out, it’s designed to harmonize visually with its high desert country environment.
“It is both sustainable and sensitive to its surroundings,” proclaims the architect’s website, fosterandpartners.com.
Back in the hippie, tree-hugging days of the Whole Earth Catalog of the late 1960s and ‘70s, we dreamed of lovely, organic, Spaceship Earth dwellings. I think Buckminster Fuller would have loved this pioneering, retro-visionary commercial spaceport terminal.
The building, designed by the firm of world-renowned architect Lord Norman Foster, will support up to two WhiteKnightTwo and five SpaceShipTwo vehicles, according to Virgin Galactic sources, and will house all of the company’s “astronaut preparation and celebration facilities, a mission control center, a friends and family area and space committed to public access.”
Whatever eventually gets off the ground at Spaceport America, what’s already there is the stuff of dreams — past, present and future.