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Richardson to lobby for Calif. spaceport

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News,Science and Technology

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who championed the development of New Mexico's spaceport, is going to work for California's space center.

Richardson has been hired as a consultant for Mojave Air and Space Port, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/TRSCQQ ).

Mojave spaceport executive director Stuart Witt said Richardson is being hired to help get so-called informed consent legislation passed by the California Legislature. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has been trying for two years to get similar legislation passed in New Mexico but has been blocked by trial lawyers in the Legislature. The law would exempt spacecraft parts suppliers from most civil lawsuits.

California and New Mexico already have laws exempting spacecraft operators, but not suppliers. Other states like Florida, Texas, Colorado and Virginia have extended the exemption to parts suppliers.

Spaceport America says New Mexico needs the exemption to attract more business to the $209 million spaceport near Las Cruces.

Virgin Galactic, which plans to launch space tourism flights from Spaceport America, is the anchor tenant there. But officials say other companies have bypassed New Mexico for states that already have the exemption on the books.

Witt told the Journal that the Mojave Air and Space Port isn't competing with Spaceport America.

"I know the media likes to play this up as a competition between our spaceports, but it's not," Witt said. "We're trying to launch an entire worldwide industry."

Christine Anderson, executive director of Spaceport America, called Witt's description "currently true." But she has repeatedly expressed concerns about the state's inability to attract more tenants to the taxpayer-built New Mexico Spaceport without the law.

"Increasingly the operators are the manufacturers," Anderson said. "That's why an emerging industry needs these protections."

Mark Butler, of Virgin Galactic, told an industry roundtable last week that New Mexico used to top the list of states for aerospace development but is falling to the bottom because the Legislature has not passed the informed consent legislation.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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