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In the race for capturing the commercial space flight industry, New Mexico is far ahead of other states. But some people in the industry say the state could throw it all away unless the legislature passes an important piece of legislation. News22’s Zach Rael spoke with experts about the state’s future in commercial space flight.
This simulated commercial spaceflight has people from all over the world looking for their chance to takeoff, and New Mexico is leading the way with the nation’s first commercial space port, Spaceport America. While there is some worry about the spaceport’s remoteness from a large population center, Mark Butler of Virgin Galactic says New Mexico is a prime location.
“I think the location that space port has and the environments in which it is located is really important. Like the clear air space, and the other facilities that are in proximity like White Sands Missile range,” said Butler.
Even though he says the location is good, proponents say state law needs to change.
“A concern that companies have, before anyone takes one of these suborbital spacecraft’s into orbit, is the lack of law in New Mexico that would limit their liability.”
If there is an accident on a space flight the state does have an informed consent law which protects the major operators, like Virgin Galactic, from being sued. But other companies are not protected.
Wayne Hale, a former NASA engineer and current consultant for commercial space flight, explains suppliers are not protected.
“However the people that supply them with equipment, and all the things that are necessary, are not protected under New Mexico law,” said Hale.
Governor Susana Martinez says expanding the informed consent law is important to keep New Mexico competitive with other states.
“We need to make sure that legislator understand how important it is to pass laws that don’t restrict other tenants from coming to Spaceport America,” the Governor explained.
State Senator Mary Kay Papen says the expanded informed consent law is written and ready for discussion in the next legislative session. The next session meets in January.