Reuters

Whenever Sir Richard Branson's "spaceline" is finally ready for business (soon, he says), Truth or Consequences will be the first place to notice. 

The New Mexico town that renamed itself after a 1950s game show is bracing for a more physical change this year, thanks to Sir Richard Branson and a nearby spaceport.

Located about 30 miles from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (population 6,451), Spaceport America is a $212 million publicly subsidized facility located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, it was built with the intention of sending civilians on commercial flights into space. The facility was officially declared open in 2011 and christened by Branson himself.

But his company, Virgin Galactic, still hasn't been able to take off yet thanks to delays in safety testing. Branson did tell Fusion TV last month that he's “90 percent convinced” his spaceline will be ready to start taking passengers 65 miles away from earth and back in 2014. Once Virgin Galactic is up and running, with plans to eventually launch as many as 700 flights a year, "T or C" (as it's known locally) expects to see an extra 200,000 annual visitors. With tickets estimated at around $250,000, many of these wealthy visitors will likely want more luxurious accommodations than T or C currently provides.

Before Branson's space dreams, the town formerly known as Hot Springs was most famous for being the first town to answer Ralph Edwards's challenge to rename themselves after his game show. Also known for its stunning southwestern natural landscape, quirky cultural scene, and modest architecture, some locals are worried about what a busy spaceport will mean for their town. While the renaming decision in 1950 meant hosting Edwards's show and receiving him annually for a parade in his honor (they still celebrate "Fiesta" every May), there's concern that Branson's impact on the town could result in a loss of identity. "We don't want a 5-star hotel in downtown," Mayor John Mulcahy told CNN last month.

According to Albuquerque Journal, Virgin Galactic says it has more than $80 million in deposits from about 680 customers ready for take off already.

A man carries a broken bicycle past the town boundary sign in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 1, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A display in honor of radio quiz show host Ralph Edwards, whose show the town was named after, is seen in Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 3, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A hut is seen in the middle of a field outside Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
A motel displays a neon vacancy sign in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Val Wilkes, 54, (L) and her wife Cydney Wilkes, 56, stand outside their motel, the Rocket Inn, in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 2, 2014. The world's first purpose-built commercial space base and soon-to-be site of the first space flights with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Misty McArthur, 48, from Ruidoso, New Mexico, soaks in the hot springs at Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico April 30, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Jessie Springer, 26, rides her horse in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
People dance to a band during the annual Fiesta in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Artist Roy Lohr, 69, sits in a "spaceship" he built in his back yard from wine and beer bottles in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Bill Morine, 87, watches the annual Fiesta parade go by in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Zaryah Muller, 9, (L) and Esteban Edwards, 7, walk in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
An overall view of the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Top image: Spaceport America's Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space Building is seen near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May 1, 2014. 

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. People eat and drink coffee inside a small coffeehouse.
    Life

    Gentrification Is Hurting Kuala Lumpur's Iconic Coffee Shops

    Traditional kopitiams, which serve sweetened coffee in no-frills surroundings, are a part of Malaysian national identity, but their survival is precarious.

  2. The facade of a casino in Atlantic City.
    Photos

    Photographing the Trumpian Urbanism of Atlantic City

    Brian Rose’s new book uses the deeply troubled New Jersey city as a window into how a developer-turned-president operates.

  3. Life

    How to Inspire Girls to Become Carpenters and Electricians

    Male-dominated trades like construction, plumbing, and welding can offer job security and decent pay. A camp aims to show girls these careers are for them, too.

  4. Transportation

    Electric Scooters Aren’t a Transportation Revolution Yet

    New data show a staggering rise in shared dockless e-scooter use nationwide. But commuting habits have seen little change since the dawn of micromobility.

  5. a photo of a man surveying a home garage.
    Transportation

    How Single-Family Garages Can Ease California's Housing Crisis

    Given the affordable housing crisis, California cities should encourage single-family homeowners to convert garages into apartments and accessory dwelling units.