LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- As we barrel down the two-lane road, historical markers tell us we are traveling along the original El Camino Real, the frontier wagon trail from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Dating to 1598, it is the oldest European-American trade route.But we are not thinking about history.It's the future that looms before us. We turn into the entrance of the $209 million Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial space-launch facility. The Gateway to Space terminal will serve passengers on Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceplane.It's quiet now, but in December 2013, when billionaire Richard Branson is scheduled to take the inaugural commercial flight, the thundering noise and excitement will rattle the windows. To date, about 500 have reserved $200,000 tickets for a joy ride into weightlessness.We enter the cavernous operations center and wander about the empty runway. We are in the middle of nothingness, exactly the reason why Spaceport America is here.