Editorial: It's T minus a month to prove NM's case for Space Command - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: It’s T minus a month to prove NM’s case for Space Command

If you are one to dwell in the negative, this editorial challenge is not for you. But if you are one to look at, and reach for, the stars, who understands how very smart and talented so many of our fellow New Mexicans are, who recognizes the unique synergy of our military bases, national labs, research universities, private aerospace enterprises and one-of-a-kind purpose-built spaceport, New Mexico needs your voice.

Because over the next month, it is essential we do everything possible to ensure those determining the new home of the new U.S. Space Command know what New Mexico has to offer. Last week, Albuquerque made the short list of six sites for more than 1,000 new jobs and the potential for billions of dollars in spending and contracts for local companies.

No offense to the other five – Air Force bases in Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, Alabama and Texas – we are sure they are nice people with great accomplishments. We just have a long and impressive history in this area, ready assets and enough brain power to get us to Mars and back – literally.

Thirty-one cities tried to get on the launchpad back in May. That’s when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mayor Tim Keller joined forces and sent a letter to get Albuquerque on DOD’s radar. A detailed proposal followed. And now we have until January to become the “preferred” location.

We can once again enumerate Albuquerque and New Mexico’s many specific assets when it comes to space:

• The Air Force Research Lab with its Space Vehicles Directorate, a “Center of Excellence” for space technology research and development.

• Sandia National Laboratories, which houses groundbreaking national defense work including a wide range of complex national security issues in space.

• Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the Intelligence and Space Research team has designed, built and analyzed data from instrumentation for space missions; monitored compliance with test ban treaties and explored space environments.

• Spaceport America, the only one built specifically for the industry, and its major-player tenants Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, UP Aerospace, EXOS Aerospace and EnergeticX Pipeline2Space.

• Kirtland, Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases and White Sands Missile Range, home to some of the brightest minds and a wealth of experience in these fields. And White Sands and the White House alone have protected air space ground to infinity.

• The University of New Mexico, our flagship university, which has had a hand in everything from solar panels orbiting Mars to technology headed to the Red Planet today, and New Mexico State and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, with focuses on NASA and defense projects and cybersecurity.

• New Space N.M., the public-private statewide chamber of commerce for the commercial space industry.

And we have a low cost of living, temperate climate with low risk of severe weather, easy access to highways and airport, and great public STEM schools including top-ranked charters.

Our congressional delegation – U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland, Ben Ray Luján and Xochitl Torres Small – has been supportive. Here’s to our newest members, now-Sen. Luján as well as Reps. Yvette Herrell and Teresa Ledger Fernandez, joining the call. And to the continued support of our governor, mayor and the invaluable Sherman McCorkle, who with the Kirtland Partnership Committee has played a key role in saving our base and continues to work to expand its missions, including Space Command.

But we need every leader in New Mexico to ensure DOD and the Air Force know we want them here.

That includes our lab directors, university presidents and regents. Our community college presidents and administrators who have geared training for specific fields and are ready to do it again. Our state senators and representatives – which includes the state’s only aviation and space attorney, Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil. Our private businesses that provide direct and ancillary support, including the latest jewel in the city’s diversification crown, Orion Group aerospace manufacturing.

This is a moonshot to not only diversify our economy but build on our state’s storied history of national defense efforts and space research.

It’s T-minus a month and counting, and time to make our case before the Air Force and DOD announce liftoff.

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.

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