Obama Vetting Bill Richardson, Space Enthusiast
New Mexico Governor Richardson interviewed by SPACE.com columnist Leonard David.
Credit: Ryan Kobrick

The political buzz is that President-elect Barack Obama is looking at New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary or some other senior post in his administration.

That news sent me scrambling back to some notes I took Oct. 24 at the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

Richardson showed up at the event -- held at the Las Cruces International Airport in New Mexico -- to announce a partnership between Rocket Racing, Inc. and Armadillo Aerospace to create a new suborbital spaceship concept to fly from the his state's Spaceport America.

During a press gab session, Richardson was asked about any possible post he might play in an Obama White House. The New Mexico governor played it a little coy, but said:

"Here's what I want to be sure of ... that the Obama administration is pro-commercial space ... that the administration is pro-space, pro-government space, pro-commercial space," Richardson observed.

Richardson said that "it's in the interest of our national space industry that commercial space could properly develop ... so I will be an advocate wherever I am ... hopefully here, still as governor of New Mexico ... you never know."

So hold onto those words, commercial space fans!

Meanwhile, you might remember the election-day thumbs down by the state's Otero County on a local tax hike to help build Spaceport America.

Steve Landeene, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) recently told me: "Several other counties have expressed an interest to join the Spaceport District as well as the recently announced Spaceport America Institute to perform fundraising. In addition we will be seeking federal support as well."

There is room within the budget to complete the Spaceport America infrastructure without the Otero county vote, Landeene added.

NMSA currently projects that licensed vertical launches at Spaceport America should begin in the first quarter of 2009 and that the terminal and hangar facility for horizontal launches should be completed by late 2010.

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Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than four decades. He is past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society's Ad Astra and Space World magazines and has written for SPACE.com since 1999.