Space Week in New Mexico was recently completed, it was held October 19-22, 2010 in Las Cruces and at Spaceport America. It took a year to plan. Space Week in New Mexico is a series of events held over 4 days. It hopefully created more questions than we answered. When will people start flying from Spaceport America, how many and what type of jobs will we see when the spaceport is finished, how can we get involved?
I don’t know the answer to all these questions, but we can keep asking until the answers create new questions for our community. To recap the week, we started with the Precollege Forum at Pan American Center at NMSU. The two reasons to have the Tuesday, October 19th events at Pan American were to involve the NMSU campus, and make it easy for the community to get to the event.
On Tuesday, we started with over 3,700 students, teachers and members of the public in the audience. We heard from Astronauts, NASA employees, Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America. The messages for students; we know you like hearing about space, now we are telling you how to learn about space for yourself, on your own, at home or with your teachers in school. Another message for the general audience; Las Cruces is leading a new era in space education. We will be exploring ways to get middle school students designing and building experiments that will go to space in April, 2011. We will have older students, people from NASA and our community, help the younger students and teachers put the experiments together.
Lots of volunteers helped us put this event on. Volunteers learn as well and help, and they tell our story. They helped park the busses, hand out NASA materials to the students, and get everyone in and out of Pan Am safely. The event had a purpose, provide more information to increase understanding about what the “Next Space Era” is bringing to our community.
Later in the day when Titusville Mayor Jim Tulley spoke to the mayors of Las Cruces, Truth or Consequences and Hatch, the audience learned no matter when people start flying from the spaceport, our communities are preparing. More people are involved in creating the environment to make the emerging commercial space industry grow.
When the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) started on Wednesday, October 20th, I’d already gotten two surprises. My first surprise, our keynote speaker for Wednesday cancelled. Neil Sheehan called on Monday night and said he was ill. Well, the show must go on.
We had over 40 speakers scheduled during the symposium. This year they came from Sweden, Japan, Singapore, and England. They came from NASA, the Air Force, the FAA, from small companies like Sierra Nevada Corporation to large companies like Boeing. They have small launch vehicles like the Tube from Armadillo Aerospace, to large vehicles like Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5. All are important in our work.
Why have so many speakers? Keep each talk 10 minutes in length. If one speaker is boring, hopefully the next one won’t be. Las Cruces and Southern New Mexico are leading the commercial space industry and this is the place to be, to meet the leadership in the industry and to get informed.
My second surprise, I twisted my ankle during the Tuesday Public Forum. Working at NMSU is very swell indeed. I had a reception on Tuesday night at the Fulton Center, and John Hummer, an invited quest suggested we go to the second floor and have the trainers wrap my ankle. While not gorgeous, it did the trick.
Then there was the Runway Dedication at Spaceport America. We started planning that event on Thursday, after ISPCS 2009. We have a de-brief immediately following the close of ISPCS. During the de-brief in 2009, we determined we should plan an event to keep people in Las Cruces one more day to learn more about what facilities we have to support space commercialization. The talks began and culminated in the event at the Spaceport on October 22nd. Southern New Mexico is leading the way to increased access to space for Mankind. We did a lot in 4 days, it was worth all the effort. We are working for our community. We will help create the future of a new space economy in our country, and we will do it together, as a community.