Dream of private spaceflight undeterred after deadly explosion, researchers push on

Stuart Witt, a former test pilot who runs the airport in this weathered desert town, was working at his desk when he heard the explosion. "I turned and looked out the window," said Witt, 54. "There was a trace of dust in the air over by the east...

It was a milestone in spaceflight. Virgin Galactic has already started booking flights aboard a Rutan-built craft for $200,000 a trip. The company hopes to begin launching in 2009.

Today, the private space industry makes up about 10 percent of the business at the airport, Witt said.

People "have a sense of pride" over the airport's role as a birthplace of private spaceflight, Deaver said.


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