In the middle of the New Mexico desert lies Spaceport America, a glittering, alien structure advertised as the very first purpose-built commercial spaceport.

It’s home to Virgin Galactic, a space startup that promises to send tourists into orbit as early as next year.

But even if that milestone happens, it will follow years of delays, setbacks, and even tragedy. Local residents in the nearby town of Truth or Consequences were told to expect big things when New Mexico joined the private space economy, but many now wonder if the dream of a space industry will ever materialize. 

Verge Science explores.