More than halfway between Earth and Mars right now rides a testament to New Mexico’s considerable contribution to space technology, one that shouldn’t go unnoticed as U.S. military officials consider a permanent home for U.S. Space Command.
The Perseverance rover that’s scheduled to land on Mars on Feb. 18 is loaded with technology developed here. So is the tiny helicopter Ingenuity strapped to the belly of the rover, and the spacecraft carrying both.
The Air Force Research Laboratory, in partnership with businesses like LoadPath of Albuquerque, developed the advanced solar cells powering Perseverance. AFRL spent more than $120 million and 25 years designing electronics to withstand radiation and extreme temperatures in space.
The rover’s laser, sensing and detection devices were built by Los Alamos National Laboratory in collaboration with partners like SolAero Technologies Corp. of Albuquerque.
Meanwhile, there’s Spaceport America, the only purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world, and Sunday’s first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by SpaceX to the International Space Station.
NASA is increasingly looking to private companies to achieve its missions, and New Mexico leaders always talk about diversifying our economy, so it seems like a natural fit.
Space Command offers more than a thousand civilian and military jobs, billions of dollars of economic activity and untold private-sector contracts. Space missions already set in motion thanks to New Mexico’s brain trust demonstrate why we should be chosen as the new location of Space Command. A decision is expected early next year. Let’s hope all those “made in New Mexico” parts tilt the scales our way.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.