New Mexico and Virginia have been among the leading states in supporting entrepreneurial space efforts. New Mexico committed $200 million to develop Spaceport America and lure Virgin Galactic to their state; Virginia has supported the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), bringing Orbital Sciences’ Taurus 2 rocket there as well as passing laws to support space activities in the state. The two states, though, are continuing their efforts to support the industry, although in different directions.
In Virginia, new governor Bob McDonnell expressed his support for funding for MARS in a speech to state legislators Monday. “Governor Kaine committed to invest $1.3 million in the Virginia Spaceport,” McDonnell said, referring to his predecessor, Tim Kaine. “We can make Wallops Island the top commercial Spaceport in America, and I ask you to keep that money in place so that we can aggressively recruit aerospace companies and promote space tourism initiatives.”
A day later, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, a staunch advocate of Spaceport America, mentioned the spaceport in his speech. “I’m pleased to report that Spaceport America is ahead of schedule and under budget,” he said in his “State of the State” address. “For those who doubt if the Spaceport will bring in business, you should know that Virgin Galactic has over forty two million dollars deposited for more than three hundred reservations.”
Richardson also called on legislators to “pass legislation allowing participants to assume the risks of spaceflight.” That’s a reference to the “Space Flight Informed Consent Act”, legislation introduced into the state Senate this year that would indemnify vehicle operators from claims of liability provided that spaceflight participants sign a waiver (with the exception of cases of “gross negligence”). Richardson noted the legislation is needed for New Mexico to stay competitive with Virginia, which was the first state to pass indemnification legislation, in 2007, as well as Florida and Texas, which also passed related bills since then.