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Alabama lawmakers want to escort travelers into space

Monday - 4/2/2012, 8:45pm  ET

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Alabama lawmakers say they hope their state can be one of the first in the Southeast to complete a commercial spaceport to ferry travelers, tourists and cargo into space.

Legislators from Alabama's state Senate and House of Representatives met in the joint committee room nicknamed "Star Wars" on Monday to announce that they would introduce joint resolutions to set up a panel to look at the possibility of bringing commercial spaceflight to the state.

"This is going to happen somewhere," said Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, who is sponsoring his chamber's resolution. "It's going to happen in the Southeast, why not us? It's not Star Trek anymore _ it's coming."

If the panel does approve the idea, it could still be another four to six years before Alabamians could launch into orbit from their backyard, Dial said. Lawmakers would introduce legislation to allow the port to go forward.

Florida, California, New Mexico, Alaska, Virginia and Oklahoma are among the states that are eyeing or already making headway on commercial spaceport projects.

Federal Aviation Administration manager of the Space Transportation Development Division Michael McElligott said the space industry was moving away from being controlled by the world's governments _ as it was during the space race _ more toward a commercial model.

McElligott said the administration would license a limited number of commercial spaceports.

Discussions have not yet begun as to where such a spaceport would be sought in the state.

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