LAS CRUCES - Flying saucers were once the stuff of fantasy.
But now they're on the verge of becoming reality.
And they may be on their way to Spaceport America, said one visiting company Thursday, the final day of this week's international spaceflight symposium in Las Cruces.
Ten-foot-diameter, two-passenger flying saucers are being developed by the California-based Moller International. They lift straight off the ground, like a helicopter, and can reach heights of 5,000 feet and speeds of up to 100 mph, said Lindsay O'Brien Quarrie, chairman of Space Sciences Corp., distributor for the aircraft.
"We're hoping to fly this at the spaceport in 2012," said Quarrie, whose company is based just north of Socorro.
The company has submitted a proposal to become part of Spaceport America's visitor experience. The saucers would give tourists who aren't traveling to suborbital space something to do at the site, Quarrie said.
"We have the opportunity to introduce it to a spaceport and spaceports across the world to 'edu-tain' people, entertainment with education," he said.
The vehicles' speed and height would be capped to 35 mph and 10 feet or less.
But the saucers, unlike helicopters, have encased rotors, and are able to maneuver more closely to other objects, said John D'Alessandro, technical services manager for Space Sciences Corp. And because of that, the flying saucers would have broader, practical applications, such as for herding cattle on a ranch.