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Names headed to space

Published by Cathleen Manville on Wed Aug 18, 2004 9:07 pm
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By Michael Shinabery of the Alamogordo News

Forget having your name on lights on Broadway. That’s so 20th century.

Now you can go beyond the Great White Way, all the way up, up and away toward the stars 21st-century style.

Alamogordo’s New Mexico Museum of Space History is shipping names to the stars on the maiden Ansari X-Prize launch of SpaceShipOne. The museum has partnered with the St. Louis Science Center and Ansari X-Prize Foundation to send names starward. Until Aug. 27, you can sign up at the museum. Cost is $10 per name. The first flight is slated for Sept. 29 from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. If SpaceShipOne does not make the first flight, the names will be flown on the competitor’s vessel. Either way, the names will be aboard the winning spacecraft.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the general public to participate in an innovative new space product,” museum Marketing Director Jack Moore said.

Participants will receive a certificate commemorating their names on that first event.

The Foundation will pay $10 million for the first non-government group to put three people 62 miles into the air, land them, then relaunch within two weeks. That is expected to happen as early as this fall with SpaceShipOne or its competitors. Scoring is on quickest turnaround; fastest to reach altitude; maximum number of passengers during one launch; total number of passengers during a two-week period; and heaviest payload.

“The X Prize can be launched from anywhere in the world,” said New Mexico Space Commissioner Dwight Harp. “If you’re a Canadian team — and there are two Canadian teams — if they’re competing in the X Prize they will probably launch from somewhere in Canada. Australians will probably launch from Australia.”

The X-Prize is putting an “X” on the southern New Mexico map. The culmination of competitive events following the awarding of the $10 million begins in 2005 with the X-Prize Cup Exhibition. Held at White Sands Missile Range, it will be a revving up of private industry into the space program.

In September 2006, the X-Prize Cup Competition will take place over two to three weeks at WSMR. X-Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis expects 10-20 launches weekly during competition, an event Gov. Bill Richardson has termed the “NASCAR of space races.” He announced in May that New Mexico beat out California, Florida and Oklahoma for the honor.

“We’re out to create … a new commercial industry,” Richardson said. “This will make us the worldwide leader in space commercialization.”

Annual events starting in 2007 will then allow private industry to improve their crafts.

In the interim, before blasting off from WSMR, teams are readying with the preliminary launches in their home countries. Currently, 27 teams from seven countries have announced their intentions to compete.
The decision to launch from WSMR is historically notable. For the first time in nearly 50 years WSMR is permitting humans on board crafts.

New Mexico Economic Development Department Secretary Rick Homans, during a Tuesday visit to Alamogordo, said the “economic impact will be significant.” He envisions 150,000 to 200,000 people — on the scale of Albuquerque’s annual Balloon Fiesta — attending to watch flights.

“Space right now is such an abstract experience for man,” Homans said, at the same time pointing out that given the chance to watch blastoffs, sit in cockpits and talk to pilots, the public will embrace the future and the state’s role in making it happen. “They’re in the infancy of an entire industry. I think New Mexico is in the right place to be in the birth of an entire industry.”

Harp, a lifelong space hobbyist, harbors his hopes of being what he termed “a space tourist.”

“This is just way so cool,” he said. “And maybe we’re going to get a chance — as seasoned fans — to ride on one of those things. It used to be that only the flat-bellied test pilots of the armed forces had a chance to do that. Now, no kidding, you and me maybe can do it. Wow!”

In the meantime, the average New Mexican can participate this year by putting his or her name in space on the maiden voyage, for $10. Contact the museum at (505) 437-2840.

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