Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Mexico helping the next US Space Race

A Computer Generated photo of what the Earth w...Image via Wikipedia
Like some railroad that's looking pretty close to completion, "Spaceport America" is on of those initiatives that have been fairly controversial -- but still feels like it's doing a good job of positioning New Mexico as a place where the future is happening.

Articles like that in the current Space Review and promotion of the ISPCS continue to help...

Visionaries of Commercial Spaceflight

Like the airline industry of the 1930s, today’s personal and commercial spaceflight business is being driven by visionaries who recognize its tremendous value for serious advancements in science, research, earth monitoring, and the commerce of human space exploration.

Gone are the days when personal and commercial spaceflight was the stuff of science fiction. Today, we’ve entered a new and different space age. Many experts predict that the first suborbital space tourism flights will occur in this decade. In just a few decades, we’ve gone from science fiction to science fact.

Gone too are the days when space was the exclusive territory of the United States and the former Soviet Union. Instead, space has become the purview of many nations and many commercial enterprises, even as space priorities are now driven increasingly by financial considerations and less by government policy.

Since the 1990s there has been a growing recognition that the United States needs to redouble its efforts in space. Experts say the US should increase its capacity and access to space for multiple purposes, including point-to-point travel, cargo delivery, and research payloads. A July 2008 front page Washington Post article summed it up clearly, “U.S. Finds It’s Getting Crowded Out There: Dominance in Space Slips as Other Nations Step Up Efforts”.

But there are encouraging signs that the US and many other industry players have recognized that it’s time for a renewed effort in this final frontier. For example, New Mexico is emerging as a key hub for personal and commercial space travel. The New Mexico Space Grant Consortium is a focal point for leading-edge developments in personal and commercial spaceflight.

New Mexico is also the home of Spaceport America, the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, designed with the needs of the commercial space business in mind. And New Mexico’s importance as a center for personal commercial spaceflight is highlighted by its October 21-28 “Space Week” featuring the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) conference, the Leonard R. Sugerman Public Forum on the business of space, and the Global Spaceport Federation meeting...

The Washington Post article referenced provides some good analysis of international competition for leadership in the next wave of efforts in space:

US Finds it's Getting Crowded Out There

Space, like Earth below, is globalizing. And as it does, America's long-held superiority in exploring, exploiting and commercializing "the final frontier" is slipping away, many experts believe.

Although the United States remains dominant in most space-related fields -- and owns half the military satellites currently orbiting Earth -- experts say the nation's superiority is diminishing, and many other nations are expanding their civilian and commercial space capabilities at a far faster pace.

"We spent many tens of billions of dollars during the Apollo era to purchase a commanding lead in space over all nations on Earth," said NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, who said his agency's budget is down by 20 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 1992.

"We've been living off the fruit of that purchase for 40 years and have not . . . chosen to invest at a level that would preserve that commanding lead."

In a recent in-depth study of international space competitiveness, the technology consulting firm Futron of Bethesda found that the globalizing of space is unfolding more broadly and quickly than most Americans realize. "Systemic and competitive forces threaten U.S. space leadership," company president Joseph Fuller Jr. concluded.

Six separate nations and the European Space Agency are now capable of sending sophisticated satellites and spacecraft into orbit -- and more are on the way. New rockets, satellites and spacecraft are being planned to carry Chinese, Russian, European and Indian astronauts to the moon, to turn Israel into a center for launching minuscule "nanosatellites," and to allow Japan and the Europeans to explore the solar system and beyond with unmanned probes as sophisticated as NASA's...

These are just some reasons why the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) next month in Las Cruces (October 22-24) is good for New Mexico and the US in general.

The impact of more aerospace work here (at the very highest end) is also something likely to boost our position in digital media, as the modeling and simulation work associated with aerospace also dovetails with skills and work in animation and game development.

The ISPCS has an impressive line-up -- and associated events bring in a good crowd of innovative people and companies from around the world. It's worth checking out -- and another good reason for northerners to visit the southern part of the state.

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