Inside the Capitol

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10-24 Gov. Jumps Aboard Space Plane

102411 spaceport

SANTA FE – Finally, we have some encouraging words from Gov. Susana Martinez about Spaceport America. The words came during her first visit to the site for dedication of Virgin Galactic's terminal building and hanger.
Earlier, Gov. Martinez skipped ceremonies dedicating the 10,000-foot runway. And in January, she had some very discouraging words for the Legislature about the spaceport's finances and the necessity of private industry picking up further costs.
But she was all smiles when posing for pictures with Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson. Her positive comments didn't get much coverage but Albuquerque Journal reporter Rene Romo interviewed her later.
Gov. Martinez said during her public comments at the dedication that she is so impressed with Virgin Galactic that she may have to add a suborbital flight to her bucket list. Romo then caught up with her to ask about her apparent change of heart.
Martinez said her visit to the spaceport increased her enthusiasm for the project. She said she never was unenthusiastic about it. She just wanted to make sure our tax dollars are being spent wisely.
Judging from the experience of backers of other projects championed by former Gov. Bill Richardson, this may have been the first time Gov. Martinez had met with Virgin Galactic representatives.
Spaceport supporters had worried that the governor's lack of enthusiasm might turn off Sir Richard who is being pursued by countries worldwide to relocate his space program. Branson's continued commitment to New Mexico during the past 10 months has been a welcome sign.
Branson and his two children rappelled from the roof of the Virgin Galactic terminal at the beginning of the ceremonies. If relations had warmed a little earlier, Gov. Martinez might have joined them. A few weeks ago, we saw film clips of her qualifying for a concealed carry license, notching a perfect score.
It has been a long time since New Mexico governors have needed to carry a gun so she must have been doing it to demonstrate her skills. She also showcased her ballroom dancing abilities at least once since becoming governor. She won a Las Cruces dance competition when she was a district attorney. So why not show off with Sir Richard? It would have made international news.
Or why not take a ride on the first space plane to lift off from New Mexico? Branson and his two children will be on it.
When Bill Richardson was governor, he said he wanted to be on the first flight. That was early in Richardson's administration when plans called for the spaceport and the spaceship to be ready by 2010.
Virgin Galactic has had much good news lately. Former NASA shuttle program manager Mike Moses is leaving the space agency to become Virgin Galactic's vice president of operations. He will be in charge of all the company's operations at Spaceport America.
Virgin Galactic is involved in more than just tourism. NASA plus several research and educational institutions have already made reservations for space aboard the flights. The company also has an agreement with NASA to collaborate in the development of equipment to conduct space flight operations.
The equipment development is said to include space suits, heat shields and other space flight elements. Space suits and heat shields will be necessary when the commercial market advances to orbital flights.
Bill Richardson should not receive all the credit or blame for the spaceport. The idea was conceived by space enthusiasts centered in the Las Cruces area during the latter days of the Garrey Carruthers administration.
Gov. Bruce King supported their efforts and delegated the responsibility to Lt. Gov. Casey Luna. Gov. Gary Johnson didn't like the idea. He felt New Mexico had too many highway improvement needs.
It was in the early days of the Richardson administration that spaceport supporters found a big friend in state Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans, who took the idea to Richardson. You know the rest of the story.


Post a Comment

<< Home