It has probably occurred to folks who have been transfixed watching rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base that we could be seeing huge changes in space exploration.

After breaching this planet’s atmosphere and orbiting Earth, Americans have walked on the Moon, NASA has sent unmanned probes deep into our solar system, and now it seems some of the enthusiasm has been drained away by the relentless march of time, and day-to-day life’s increasing complexities.

Mankind seems to be folding inward, involved in social and political problems too complex to resolve easily. The idea of spending the time, effort and money needed to, say, establish a human colony on Mars seems to have lost its appeal.

Well, that may be true for some people, but not us. Rarely have we witnessed anything more breathtaking than an Atlas, Delta, Titan or other behemoth lifting from the pad at SLC 6. It’s something you don’t forget. And the notion that discovering what’s out there, or believing it to be beyond our reach, is just too defeatist and disheartening.

That is one of the reasons for our continued hope for creation of a space center at the heart of launch activity in California. For us, the idea of such an educational/entertainment complex in the Lompoc Valley is alive and well, and we sincerely want to believe this latest effort will be the one that works.

This story line got a boost last week at a forum hosted by the Economic Alliance of Northern Santa Barbara County, at which Air Force officials and the founder and CEO of Pale Blue Dot Ventures, which is the outfit hoping to build a multifaceted space center, explained what’s going on at VAFB.

The Air Force contingent got the ball rolling by explaining the new mission — making Vandenberg the “spaceport of the future.” That encouraging presentation was followed by the private company spokesman with an update on a space center proposal that is moving forward with the blessing of the Lompoc City Council.

As it turns out, two wealthy entrepreneurs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, are helping fuel the effort to turn VAFB into the new Cape Canaveral. Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’ Blue Origin have helped this nation move from just 1 percent of commercial space launches seven years ago, to its current 40-percent share.

Both Musk and Bezos are focused on commercial space travel, and VAFB officials are excited about the Lompoc Valley launch facility being the hub for space travel.

That should boost the efforts of Pale Blue Dot Ventures to secure the financing needed to begin construction of a bonafide space center. There have been previous efforts to find the money for a space center complex, dating back a couple of decades, and financing has, for the most part, been why the project has never left the launching pad.

Like previous incarnations, Pale Blue Dot Ventures’s preliminary plans call for an education/entertainment complex with a theater, outdoor plaza to view launches from the base, possibly on-site lodging and a conference center.

Lompoc officials see all sorts of other possibilities. Think what Disney World did for the Orlando region. It’s difficult to imagine that a successful space center on land near VAFB and the Allan Hancock College Lompoc campus complex wouldn’t also give the region’s economy an overall boost.

But, as we’ve learned in the past, it’s a dream until the first shovel of dirt is lifted from the project site. Further exploration of space is also a dream, but one that could come true.

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