If NASA's space shuttle program is essentially dead, does Houston's Space City moniker still apply?
Perhaps if we have a spaceport it will, and Mario Diaz, director of aviation for the Houston Airport System (HAS), revealed intentions to outfit Ellington Field for the future of travel during a State of the Airports address this week.
"Skimming along on top of the world," spacecraft would transport Houstonians to far-off destinations in a matter of hours.
To hear Diaz talk of it, a spaceport does sound pretty futuristic: Traveling at Mach 3 or 4 against the edge of space, "skimming along on top of the world," spacecraft would transport Houstonians to far-off destinations in a matter of hours.
(Diaz envisions traveling to Singapore in less than three hours, shorter than a drive to Austin. Compare that to a full day of flights and layovers and customs — I've been there, and it's harrowing.)
But all of this, says Diaz, is within our grasp. The airport system is currently seeking certification for Ellington from the Federal Aviation Administration, a process that's expected to take 15 to 18 months.
KTRK Ch. 13 News notes that this won't be a cheap endeavor for the airport or the customer — a joy ride on the Virgin Galactic, for instance, will set a passenger back $200,000 — but HAS seems to think that it won't be long before it's an economically viable enterprise.
Houston's not the only one in on the race to commercial space travel: Midland is looking into a license, and the FAA has issued them to two locations in Florida, one in New Mexico, and others in California and Virginia.