LCSN: Governors team to review spaceport

January 14, 2011. Retrieved online January 14, 2011 from Milan Simonich, Las Cruces Sun-News

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez appointed a transition team Thursday to examine Spaceport America, New Mexico’s $209 million venture into the world of private space travel.

Martinez, a Republican, said the team would examine the Spaceport’s operations, financing and contracts. She said an evaluation of the spaceport was consistent with her practice of reviewing the state budget “to ensure the best and most prudent use of taxpayer money.”

Spaceport America, in Sierra County, was pushed by Martinez’s predecessor, Democrat Bill Richardson. He saw the endeavor as a means of creating jobs and attracting tourists.

Construction began in 2009, and the first suborbital flights are to launch this year or next. A suborbital flight is one that does not have enough velocity to achieve an orbit of the Earth.

Former New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers is one of those Martinez has appointed to evaluate the project’s finances and readiness for business.

Carruthers said in a telephone interview that he has been an enthusiastic supporter of the project. The dean of the College of Business at New Mexico State University, Carruthers campaigned for sales-tax increases in Sierra and Dona Ana counties to help finance the spaceport.

He said a years-old study by NMSU’s Arrowhead Center on economic policy showed a market for space travel as a tourism enterprise.

Suborbital flights do not happen instantaneously. Those who embark on such a trip also probably would want to spend some time in New Mexico to see Santa Fe, White Sands National Monument and other attractions, he said.

Martinez’s decision to evaluate Spaceport America is sensible, Carruthers said.

“If you have these kinds of investments out there, you want to be sure everything is copacetic, under budget and moving in the right direction,” he said.

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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