Homans to resign at Spaceport America director

The uncertainty about the future of Rick Homans as executive director of Spaceport America, as discussed here earlier this week, appears to be over. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Wednesday that Homans has tendered his resignation, effective Friday. Homans, speaking at an emergency meeting of the spaceport’s board, said that he had been informed last week by Susana Martinez, who became governor of New Mexico on Saturday, that he had to either resign or be fired. Homans had served in the administration of the previous governor, Bill Richardson, a Democrat; Martinez is a Republican. “I understand politics, and I also understand how critical it is for her to have absolute trust and confidence in the executive leadership of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority,” Homans said, according to the report.

It’s not clear what the board’s plans are for replacing Homans, on an interim or permanent basis. It’s also not clear what the current board’s own future is: while only the spaceport’s board has the power to hire or fire the executive director, the board itself could be replaced by the new governor. The uncertainty comes at a time when the spaceport is seeking to expand the roster of companies doing business there, a move endorsed in a recent Sun-News editorial, but questions about both the spaceport’s management and the commitment to it by the state government could cause some companies to think twice, at least for now.

Update: some more information from the Albuquerque Journal and the Las Cruces Sun-News Thursday morning:

  • According to the Journal, at least five of the seven spaceport board members wanted Homans to stay on, at least until construction of the spaceport is completed later this year.
  • Board members, who told the Sun-News they were uncertain whether they would be kept by the new governor, said they had not been given instruction on how to hire a new executive director. However, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Economic Development told the Journal that the position would be advertised and a search committee created.
  • The Journal also reported that the governor has a “Spaceport Review Team” that is examining the current status of the spaceport, including its contract with anchor tenant Virgin Galactic; that team has received input from former astronauts like Harrison Schmitt and Sid Gutierrez. “The governor believes astronauts have more insight into space travel than Bill Richardson’s deputy campaign manager,” said a spokesman for the governor, referring to Homans. (How much insight these former astronauts have on commercial space travel, though, may be very different.)
  • Virgin Galactic president and CEO George Whitesides told the Journal that the company is looking “forward to working with the Martinez administration to continue to advance New Mexico’s leadership in commercial space,” but had no other comment.

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