What once was a dream has now become a reality! Intermingled with some of the world’s most negative news was a very wonderful piece of news about an exciting event July 11. I am referring to Richard Branson’s space flight originating in New Mexico. This event was over 17 years in the making.
The space flight idea began with Branson, but the spaceport came long before that. In the early 1990s, as New Mexico’s lieutenant governor, I represented New Mexico on the Aerospace States Association and soon became its chairman.
At about the same time, then-Congressman Bill Richardson and his friend Branson conceived of the idea of a flight into space. The spaceport became a reality during the Richardson administration. As governor, Richardson gave me the honor of serving on the Spaceport Authority.
After my term as lieutenant governor had ended, a succeeding governor asked me for an overview of the spaceport program. Despite my briefing and personal enthusiasm, the new governor dismissed the spaceport as a “Buck Rogers thing” and called it far too dangerous.
Other governors, state legislators and local leaders never gave the spaceport the support it needed, despite its potential for huge economic development for New Mexico.
The state already offered God-given gifts that the space industry looks for, including 5,000 feet of altitude; huge amounts of open space and air space largely within restricted air space near White Sands; 360 days of sunshine per year; clean, noncorrosive air; and the availability of vacant land for research, development and storage, etc.
Several top aerospace companies have gone to Florida, Texas, California, Virginia and other places because of the lack of strong political and government support in New Mexico.
New Mexico has now made history by being the first state in which a manned private space launch has taken place. We must never let politics and an ignorance of space and science stand in New Mexico’s way again. Sí se puedo! (Yes, it can!)