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Congratulations to FAA, New Mexico State University on New Center of Excellence

Congratulations to FAA, New Mexico State University on New Center of Excellence

By Astiles  on August 20, 2010

Five or six years ago, as the Ansari X PRIZE was winding to a close, we at the X PRIZE Foudnation went out looking for a partner who could work with us on our next big project. Inspired by the crowds who came to Mojave at odd hours of the night to watch SpaceShipOne and WhiteKnight take to the skies, we dreamed up an exposition where the fledgling commercial spaceflight industry would go on display for an audience of die-hard space enthusiasts, curious on-lookers, and future employees, investors, and customers. We felt it woudl be important to showcase both the technologies and the people behind them, giving the world a chance to meet these visionaries and catch at least a glimpse of what it was like to be on the bleeding edge of this exciting new industry.

We knew that this was a lofty ambition, and that we could never pull it off without a great partner--a location with the vision and the ability to host not only the crowds of people but also the rockets and the rocketeers themselves. It was an absolute requirement that this partner be forward-thinking enough to want to get in early (very early) on emerging new industry, and to deal with the difficulties and hurdles that leaders always face.

We we very fortunate to find such a partner in the state of New Mexico, and particularly the southern region of the state. With residents and officials from the townships to the governors office excited about the prospects of the emerging commercial space industry, we were able to find support in Las Cruces, Alamogordo, and the surrounding towns to conduct several years of trailblazing activities, including two X PRIZE Cups, the "Countdown to the X PRIZE Cup," and three years of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE.

Those events certainly weren't perfect--they were probably far enough ahead of their time that they couldn't possibly be perfect. But they were fun, interactive, record-setting, and educational. They helped show the world that the commercial space industry was real, and that it could and would have real impact on our world and on an economy. Not only did it showcase some of the future leaders of the "New Space" community, it also proved a fertile breeding ground for other such companies and projects.

It also helped showcase New Mexico as an important hub for the industry. The rocketeers made connections and earned valuable experience operating from the region, helping to encourage many of them to view the state as an important launch facility of the future. Our public events also helped encourage the local citizenry to voluntarily tax themselves in order to support the construction of Spaceport America--which is moving forward at an impressive rate.

Having worked so closely with the folks in New Mexico, and having seen their talent, their vision, and their passion, we at the X PRIZE Foundation were not at all surprised to see a consortium lead by the New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM, named as the leader of the new Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation created by the Federal Aviation Administration.

US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said "“The Obama Administration is committed to making sure the United States remains the world leader in space development and exploration. This new center underscores that commitment, and will ensure that the commercial space community can meet our current and future space transportation needs.” What better place for such a center, then, than a city and a state that has already shown that same committment in spades?

We are also excited to see that that the new center will also rely on the leadership and the contributions of many organizations from the state of Florida--we've recognized Space Florida's committment to the emerging space industry ever since they approached us about becoming a Preferred Partner for the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

We look forward to seeing more information about this new center of excellence! In the meantime, congratulations to all involved.

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