Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Down to the Wire!

Wow, the Spaceport America vote here in New Mexico is going down to the wire. Last night, it was looking like the anti-Spaceport crowd was going to have their way and end New Mexico's chances at playing a part in the future of space exploration and cashing in on math and science industry benefits for our kids' education (25% of the tax proceeds will go to aerospace-based math and science initiatives in our area schools).

But in the evening counting, the pro-Space vote pulled ahead. It's now almost neck-and-neck with 50.6% for and 49.4% against, a difference that is less than 541, the number of provisional ballots cast. We have a 204-vote advantage, so it's looking good, but it's too early to call. This is one close race.

It's also a pretty emotionally charged race. When one of the NMSU administrators endorsed the measure (a reasonable thing, I think, considering the measure provides direct funding for education AND practically guarantees an injection of students in aerospace topics), we had some rather nasty-toned emails go out in opposition.

I won't go so far as to say there are no reasons to vote against the measure. There are legitimate gripes, such as questioning the environmental impact of a spaceport and wondering how much risk this project entails when compared to the possible competitors to Spaceport America. What strikes me about the arguments against the measure is that they all come down to a risk-versus-reward question, and those opposed seem to think that there is negligible reward to a spaceport.

I guess I can understand that, if you discount the increased math and science school funding (something that is desperately needed across America as a whole, but in our communities in particular), because not everyone really appreciates that this isn't (entirely) about taking a risk to create high-paying jobs here. It's not merely about growing a completely new industry for New Mexico. And no, it's not about Bill Richardson's bid for the presidency (lots of people have been working for a very long time to bring this project to fruition, thank you very much - this is not a recent marketing stunt).

Spaceport America is about New Mexico having the courage to embrace man's greatest adventure: space exploration. Yes, there's risk. Yes, it's hard. Like JFK said in perhaps the greatest, most adventurous political speech of our times,
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...
I want New Mexico to step up to the plate and commit itself to trying to reach for the stars. We're a great state, filled with great people, but for too long, we've languished in the shadow of low achievement, low expectations, and lack of courageous vision. Space exploration is one of those things that can serve as an identity for our state, redefining us as a cutting-edge, tech-smart state, in the same way the film production initiatives are paying social and economic dividends on the creative side. We can be known for this if we have the will to embrace it.

But the real value, for me, comes from the personal aspect of brining space travel here. It will be well worth one cent on every four dollars to watch my son grow up in a school with strong math and science programs, with great local opportunities for field trips and guest speakers. It will be worth it for my son to feel connected to the space program growing up, rather than it being some otherworldly thing that you see detached exhibits about at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum when you visit D.C. It will be worth it when I can stand with him to witness the awesome power of a space shot with our own eyes as a handful of people sit on tons of burning explosive fuel hurtling skyward for the sole purpose of adventure. It will be worth it if my son has the opportunity to experience space travel when my generation did not.

I just hope this bill passes.


Daniel Lopez said...

Nice article. You should have sent this into the Sun-News as an Op-Ed piece.

Desiree and I hope it passes too.

I hope all is well.


CC said...

Heh. Thanks. It's pointless, now, since the votes have already been cast, but it would have been nice to have had more voices in favor of the measure, instead of just a lot of "booga booga they gonna raise your taxes!"