I have a picture in my office of Len Sugerman and Neil Armstrong at a conference in Berlin, Germany in 1975. They were attending a guidance, navigation and control symposium. In those days, the now very well known Global Positioning System was a US military program and was used to assure accuracy for ICBMs. In the 1980s, the government made GPS available for civilian use. It has only been recently that commercial applications have evolved so millions of consumers benefit daily from GPS. Whether it is air, rail, sea or ground transportation, GPS has returned to the taxpayer billions of dollars in fuel savings. It also has increased the safety of the flying public. When first designed, GPS was a national security priority. We were in the “Cold War” in 1969. The photograph of Len Sugerman and Neil Armstrong was taken 6 years after the first landing on the moon, in the US sector of Berlin. It would take 20 years for both Berlin Wall and Russian Communism to crumble. Yet, in this bleakest of times, during those same 20 years, we created the fledgling human space transportation industry. And, we created technologies that added billions to our economy.
A manned moon landing required not only a highly reliable rocket in the Saturn 5, but also accurate guidance, navigation and control technologies that had been tested during the ICBM program evolution. Intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, had to be accurate, especially since they carried nuclear war heads. And to state the obvious, if you’re going to the moon, it is important to hit the target. Len Sugerman was one of the researchers who helped develop the space based guidance, navigation and control systems, and the related GPS satellite system. They not only reduced risk in the space programs, but also improved reliability of shipping and air transportation. He also understood the importance of civilian spaceflight capability for New Mexico and our national economy.
Recently General Kehler, commander U.S. Strategic Command, said evolving national security solutions requires we all keep in mind an economically secure nation is a nation far more likely to remain secure. The United States has a long history of using government investment in technologies and returning those investments over to the private sector.
We are evolving the next transportation industry in our backyard at Spaceport America. Allowing this industry to move forward is our choice. We have learned, as people who enjoy travel, we want safe, reliable transportation. The Federal Aviation Administration regulates air and space transportation. It regulates the conditions under which they will allow airlines to carry passengers. As commercial space transportation technologies evolve the FAA will evolve safety standards. The traveling public will want reliability and safety in our space vehicles and systems. Len was a master of timing as a negotiator, a navigator indeed. He knew how to visualize the target, and reach it, even if it was legislation.
Our legislators and members of industry must work together to evolve the requisite technologies and regulations needed to achieve common carriage requirements for space travel as they did for airline travel. It is best for our state to work with industry and evolve together what reasonable agree is safe and reliable transportation along with a viable economy. Neil Armstrong suggested our government was well advised to continue its space exploration mission, if we don’t others will step in. This is a moment of opportunity. While not the first state to pass informed consent legislation, as Colorado, Florida and Virginia are among those who have passed this legislation, New Mexico, with our long history of leadership in space research and development certainly does not want to let this moment pass us by.
Each of us who drives a car knows there is some risk when we get behind the wheel. Over the years, car manufacturers evolved safety systems including air bag and seat belts, highways have evolved safer barrier and lighting systems. We kept commerce flowing, car manufacturers and car dealers in business and gasoline refineries evolving. We have come to understand it is for the good of all we evolve safety standards, and we abide by them to keep our communities safe and economies growing.
It is election season. We can elect public officials who negotiate reasonable protections for us. We live in a representative democracy, and, we live in a free market economy. I expect my legislators to consider I am able to distinguish reasonable risk. I take it every time I vote, drive or fly.