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Behind the scenes at Spaceport America (pictures)

CNET gets an up close and personal look at the futuristic home of Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceflight operations.

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Daniel Terdiman
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
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1 of 15 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Spaceport America

SPACEPORT AMERICA, N.M. -- it looks like a building for the future, and it is. In the middle of the New Mexico desert, an hour outside Truth or Consequence, a very large building emerges -- the home of Virgin Galactic.

Here, at some point in the near future, Virgin Galactic hopes, it will begin the commercial spaceflight age. Flying private citizens, at $250,000 a seat, into space aboard the custom-built Spaceship Two, launched from the WhiteKnightTwo, the company expects to make history.

This is the Virgin Galactic terminal building. All astronauts will go through this building, which is closed to the public and the press.

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Blending into the mountains

The main terminal building was designed by the famous architecture firm Foster + Partners to blend into the surrounding mountains. (Foster + Partners is also the firm behind Apple's upcoming donut-shaped campus in Cupertino, Calif.)

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WhiteKnightTwo outside

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo, which will carry SpaceshipTwo, seen outside the Virgin terminal at Spaceport America during a Virgin press event.

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WhiteKnightTwo inside

WhiteKnightTwo is seen inside the terminal building in this promotional photograph from Foster + Partners.

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Flying overhead

WhiteKnightTwo, carrying SpaceshipTwo, circles over the Spaceport America runway in this Virgin Galactic promotional photo.

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SpaceshipTwo

SpaceshipTwo is seen inside the Mojave, Calif., hangar of the Spaceship Company, the firm created by Virgin Galactic to build the spacecraft that will eventually carry paying passengers aloft.

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16-34

The terminal building is seen from the edge of the runway at Spaceport America.

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Operations building

The Spaceport America operations building, which is home to mission control and to the administrative offices of the New Mexico Space Authority.

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Mission control

Though it looks like little more than a glorified desk, this is mission control in the operations building. From here, New Mexico Space Authority personnel can monitor any and all launches that take place at Spaceport America.

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Both buildings

Both the main terminal building and the operations center are seen in this CNET photograph.

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Reflection

The exterior of the terminal building is meant both to provide a stunning reflection of the tarmac and surrounding area, and to make it nearly impossible to see inside the building.

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Runway

A look down the Spaceport America runway into the New Mexico desert.

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Operations center with fire trucks

The operations center is also home to Spaceport America's fire crew. Upstairs, behind the second-story window, is mission control.

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Gateway to space

This screen, in mission control, provides basic information about conditions at Spaceport America.

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Terminal from above

The main terminal, seen from above in a Foster + Partners photograph.

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