Inside the Capitol

Saturday, April 28, 2012

5-2 NM steps up spaceport promotion

50212 Spaceport
SANTA FE – Judging from the May issue of the New Mexico Magazine, the state Tourism Department is all in on promoting Spaceport America.
The edition presents an all-encompassing history of spaceflight in the state followed by a travel guide of some of the 52 destinations around the state where the history of spaceflight can be experienced.
The focus of the magazine, however, seems to be Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. Branson has been convinced for some time that New Mexico is the right place for his space tourism business.
Branson has the money to build his own spaceport but why do that when states and nations are eager to do it for you? It is the same game the sports moguls play. Why build a stadium yourself when communities everywhere are willing to use taxpayer money to build one for you?
The result has been a good relationship. Branson promotes New Mexico heavily. Even when Gov. Susana Martinez was chilly toward the spaceport last year, Branson's support for New Mexico never faltered. Instead of the governor romancing Branson as former Gov. Bill Richardson did, it was a case of Branson romancing Gov. Martinez. And it worked. Martinez didn't make it to the dedication of the spaceport runway last year but she did work it into her schedule to get to the dedication of the terminal.
Ever since then, Gov. Martinez has been all smiles about our spaceport. Now she needs to put her game face on and start selling it like she has with trying to deny driver's licenses to illegal aliens.
The spaceport likely is the biggest economic development opportunity for New Mexico since the national labs and air bases of the 1940s.
The focus on Virgin Galactic has led naysayers to incorrectly see the spaceport as just a taxpayer financed playground for the rich. The same phenomenon was occurring a century ago with development of the airplane. It's going to happen folks, whether New Mexico is ready or not.
Earlier this week, a company known as SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk of Paypal, was to launch cargo to the space station.
Musk already has put a rocket in orbit and returned it safely. Several other companies are vying for business created by retirement of NASA's space shuttle. And none of them are flying out of New Mexico. The opportunities are out there. Let's go get them.
Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson sounds like she's game. She's come up with a new slogan for the state called "Carpe Manana." It's a double play on familiar words. The phrase "carpe diem," seize the day" has been around for ages.
"Carpe Manana," seize tomorrow, can either be a takeoff on New Mexico's laid back manana attitude or a message that New Mexico is ready to seize the future.
Jacobson says the tongue-in-cheek twist on words can now be seen on
T-shirts, bumper stickers and souvenir mugs throughout New Mexico.
In the New Mexico magazine May edition, Jacobson and her staff make a convincing argument that New Mexico is the birthplace of rocketry. The articles begin with a history of Dr. Robert Goddard arriving in Roswell in the late 1920s, followed by Werner von Braun and his captured rocket scientists after Germany's World War II surrender.
The Germans brought their V-2 rockets that had terrorized England during the war and further testing began. NASA followed in the 1980s and now Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic recently.
A thousand workers were employed during construction of the spaceport. Spaceport director Christine Anderson predicts 2,000 more jobs will be created in the next five years. Some 200,000 visitors, mostly from out of state, are projected by 2014.
The Tourism Department will be ready for them with a list of 52 space-related destinations for tourists to visit. Jacobson's idea for how to attract tourists and keep them in our state longer is to keep them moving around to new experiences.


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