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Virgin Galactic: Posh Space Center, Big Carbon Footprint

The world's first private space port may be an environmentally friendly piece of architecture, but the carbon footprint left behind by the rockets taking tourists into orbit will be enormous.

He built the cupola on the Reichstag in Berlin, the legendary wobbly Millennium Bridge in London -- indeed, Architect Lord Norman Foster has built many world-famous structures that have become landmarks. For his latest project, though, Foster has designed the world's first private space port, which, for security reasons, is being erected in the solitude of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The spaceport's creators, including entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, proudly presented the winning design, developed together by the US firm URS Corporation and the London-based Foster + Partners, last Tuesday. From above, the biomorphic cement roof resembles a sleeping ray, and seen from its side it fits in harmoniously with the gently rolling hills.

The terminal building and its hangars are expected to cost about $31 million and construction is expected to begin in 2008, with completion by 2010.

The companies also appear to be cutting no corners when it comes to making the passive building as environmentally friendly as possible. Power will be generated with solar panels and even water will be recycled. But all the fuss about conservation comes across as a bit empty considering the enormous fuel consumption and carbon footprint of each rocket that will launch from the private spaceport, taking space tourists into orbit for $200,000 a pop.

dsl/spiegel

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