Have you ever owned a jalopy and had to push it over to the side of the road? Remember what it’s like, drivers side door open, traffic stopped and you huffing and puffing to get it out of everyone’s way. When I was young my parents did not give me a car when I came to NMSU. Most students did not have cars at NMSU in the sixties. It was kind of like it must be now in Cuba. Those students who had cars had some real clunkers. They stalled plenty of times, at the worst times naturally. On my way to a meeting this week I saw a student pushing his car off to the side of the road. And just like in the old days, like magic, people appeared out of nowhere to help. This is a college town, and right after Spring break, our students were back here again, with their old jalopies. It’s part of living in Las Cruces.
Another benefit of living in a college town is the ability to have meetings like we just completed last Monday. The meeting I was going to was one I have been planning for about a year. Bring people here to discuss, among other topics, using Spaceport America as stepping stone to the International Space Station and involve the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). CASIS is the organization that manages the United States national laboratory on the International Space Station.
Think of it, I was a student here at NMSU, with very few material resources, but I had to the world at my fingertips here at NMSU. I knew I was limited, but NMSU is not. I still do have limits. Yet, hard work, perseverance, and a whole lot of vision have led 50 people to join us on Monday to take one more step closer to this great adventure. To increase the number of students, faculty, teachers, and New Mexicans who can benefit from a launch site open to the public. Open to the public means they can create technologies and test them at the spaceport. We have had White Sands Missile Range here for seventy five years, but it not a commercial launch site. It exists to serve the military. Spaceport America exists to serve people like us.
There were a couple of things I wanted to assess at this meeting. Are there any faculty and students at the research universities in New Mexico interested in creating research programs that use the microgravity environment? Are there any experiments being developed that are ready or close to being ready to go to the International Space Station? If so, what is their next step and could the people in the room help? Finally, we wanted to determine could the spaceport be used to help not only New Mexico researchers, but researchers from across the United States? Read on for the answer.
All attendees had to apply and identify whether they had and experiment, an interest and related investigation capability, or willingness to grow a program using the microgravity environment. Students and faculty from NMSU, University of New Mexico, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and Northern New Mexico College attended. An NMSU graduate was representing the Southwester Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, Spaceport America was represented. The Chief Technology Officer, NMSU graduate and founder of Calculex attended and had multiple interests in the project. Researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch and Grambling State in Louisiana came, as well as researchers from the Medical Centers of America, based in El Paso attended.
Our partners in the meeting also included the NMSU Arrowhead Park and the Arrowhead Incubator. Four members of the CASIS team joined us and led discussions on life sciences and biomedical research, materials research, remote sensing and Earth observation and STEM education. A colleague of mine from Purdue who has flown an experiment out of our spaceport and also had an experiment on the International Space Station spoke as well as a Virgin Galactic representative was there, also a former NMSU student.
All presenters were focused on helping researchers understand how to use their system for research. We had two representatives from NASA’s Flight Opportunities office, who have been working with UP Aerospace out at the spaceport. NanoRacks, a private company, who got its start in collaboration with Kentucky Space Grant, provides researchers the containers, and lab equipment to perform research in the national laboratory portion of the space station.
The format of the meeting enabled us to come up with the following outcomes: we now know, there are 5 experiments in New Mexico that are within 1-3 years of being ready to go the space station. Calculex has an questions they want to investigate on radio frequency propagation CASIS, will facilitate the next steps for all the experimental interests we uncovered. Without a doubt, CASIS is certain Spaceport America will be in their future plans.
I am a lucky person to be in this place at this time. Granted, we go slowly on our space program right now. Yet, this is a college town, we have all kinds of people who pop out of now where to help. There are a lot of smart people who want to help us and use our spaceport. We have to focus, moving forward and reach out. The full list of meeting outcomes, speakers and more will be on our website: www.nmspacegrant.com.