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Next leg of the Space Race: in the Southwest

As the sun sets on NASA, the next leg of the space race -- that's affordable space travel for versions of you and me with higher salaries -- is taking shape in the Southwest:

If all goes to plan, Friday will be our last chance to see a shuttle take-off. It is a sentimental time for some, the shuttle Atlantis marks the end of an era in human spaceflight. But in the Californian desert of Mojave they see an opportunity. Space entrepreneurs at the Mojave Air and Space Port see themselves as the future - making cheap, routine spaceflight available for everyone, not just elite astronauts. The big corporates, such as Virgin Galactic and Northrop Grumman, work in hangars alongside smaller teams. And they are all chasing the dream of space travel within sight of the Edwards Air Force base where, in the 1950s, test pilots flew to the edge of space before Nasa even existed.

As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.