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NM native ready for Virgin Galactic to come to its spaceport home

Lexy Snell, right, an assistant crew chief for Virgin Galactic, poses with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson during a news conference earlier this month to announce the company is moving its spacecraft and employees to Spaceport America. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — He wasn’t the only person who got a bit teary eyed when Lexy Snell told her story at Virgin Galactic’s rollout announcement.

But CEO George Whitesides, who introduced her and brought her to the podium, certainly was one of them.

Snell, wearing her olive assistant crew chief coveralls, walked on to a stage with Whitesides, Sir Richard Branson, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and others to tell her story – one of a northern New Mexico native who moved a lot as a kid growing up in trailer parks around the state.

She said she didn’t know what she wanted to be in life until age 27, when she signed up for a program she had heard about at Central New Mexico Community College. It was the aviation maintenance tech program, and she became only the second woman to graduate from it with a degree and an airplane and power plant license.

She landed a summer internship at Virgin Galactic and ended up as an employee working in California.

“I’ve fallen in love with the work I’m so lucky to get to do every day,” said Snell, 34, adding that the people she works with are driven by dedication and passion.

“We built Unity, a spaceship, by hand from scratch … and flew humans to space,” she said. “Now, we’re ready to come home to open this experience to the rest of the world.”

“The point of the story is this,” Snell said. “Work hard. Take chances. Run with opportunities given to you. You may not figure it out right away but don’t sell yourself short.

“You never know,” she said to rousing applause. “You just might be able to go from trailer parks to spaceships.”

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