To Infinity—and Alabama

I have one word I want to say to you: Spaceports.

The space shuttle program may be over, but for some states, now's the time to get excited about the great beyond, thanks to the idea of launch sites for cargo, satellites, and—of course—commercial flights

The Federal Aviation Authority has already licensed eight such sites in six states across the country. Now Alabama is shooting to get one of its own.

A new proposal filed Tuesday would create a nine-person committee that could recommend builing the "Alabama Spaceport Authority." If approved by the panel and the feds, the project would be fully funded with federal dollars. But as WHNT reports "it could still be another four to six years before Alabamians could launch into orbit from their backyard."

This is all part of NASA's new effort to encourage private space exploration and private launches. Two private companies, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp,, have already hired a slew of laid-off NASA scientists and, according to the Washington Post, each hopes to take on some "cargo-carrying responsibilities." 

As Patrick Caldwell noted when Newt Gingrich was planning a moon colony, things in the private sector haven't moved quite as fast as people might have hoped. "As of yet, there have been no commercial trips to space, and the largest available jackpot—a $50 million award offered by Robert Bigelow for building a reusable space capsule—went unclaimed after six years. No one had come close to reaching the goal, and no test flights were even attempted."

But that doesn't mean states aren't excited. Alabama's resolution already has three sponsors. And in Texas, where Amazon.com owner Jeff Bezos is building a spaceport, lawmakers have even voted to limit liability, just to show they're pro-market even if the market is on the moon.

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