Pacheco: It is imperative that the US keep funding spaceflight

As a young child, I remember watching the Apollo missions that sent men to the moon. I also remember having rocket and astronaut toys and drinking Tang, just like the astronauts did. Later on, having kept a strong fascination with the quest to put men on the moon, I was filled with pride that two of the 12 Americans who walked on the moon were Harrison Schmidt (Santa Clara) and Ed Mitchell (Artesia), both from my home state of New Mexico. From a goal that President John Kennedy had to land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, the subject of spaceflight evolved greatly in the ensuing three decades. Unfortunately, the quest for space experienced a little lull after the last Space Shuttle flight was taken in 2011. However, the space race is on again and I was fortunate to have witnessed a bit of this personally.

On Aug. 10, I was a guest at the launch of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spaceship at Spaceport America southeast of Truth or Consequences. This launch was the first one undertaken by Virgin Galactic with paying passengers, a mother and daughter from Antigua, and an 80-year-old former Olympian from the United Kingdom. Spaceport America is in an isolated location in the southern New Mexico desert, abutting White Sands Missile Range, in order to provide for safety and plenty of room for launches. It was a beautiful morning as the spectators brimmed with excitement. At the appointed time, the spacecraft came speeding down the runway and took off into the air just like a jet airplane.

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