HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- The Huntsville International Airport is thinking ahead to the day when space tourism is the norm. The Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority already asked the Federal Aviation Administration for approval to be a commercial space re-entry site, meaning North Alabama could one day play a major part in commercial space travel.
Mark McDaniel serves on the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council and is the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority Board Chairman. The airport hasn’t gotten approval to be a re-entry site yet, but McDaniel says the growing space race among billionaires and commercial entities shows progress for the future of space exploration for all.
“Any time our youth sees this and says ‘okay this is what I want to do’ these are things that’s never been done before in mankind and yes its motivating,” says McDaniel.
McDaniel believes private space travel and commercialization will one day develop a new tourism industry.
“We’re not talking about something in ten years, we’re talking about something way… But you got to start,” says McDaniel.
In preparation for that potential, the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority is proposing to operate the Huntsville International Airport as a commercial space reentry site for Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser vehicle.
“We’ve been working on this for several years to get to the point where we can land a space ship that comes in from outer space and lands here at Huntsville international Airport,” says McDaniel.
He says the operations of the Dream Chaser shuttle will open up commercial space flight and hopes Huntsville plays a part.
“It says to the nation, we’ve always been here in Huntsville. I’ve always said marshal space flight center that’s to me, the gem in all of the 10 NASA centers,” says McDaniel.
McDaniel says the Airport Authority has been in communication with Sierra Nevada and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We have the second longest runway in the Southeast United States okay, the only longer one is Miami so we have a perfect facility here for it, we have the perfect runway,” says McDaniel.
McDaniel says the FAA hasn’t given the airport authority space re-entry approval yet, but he feels very confident it will happen.