Virginia’s governor candidates are spaceport lovers

In this off year in the Congressional election cycle, one of the few elections of interest is the Virginia gubernatorial race. The primaries are today, although only the Democratic nomination is contested, with three major candidates: Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe, and Brian Moran. The good news for space advocates in the state is that all three Democrats, as well as Republican Bob McDonnell, have all endorsed continued development of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island.

Among the Democratic candidates, Deeds and McAuliffe endorsed additional funding for MARS at a forum in April, according to Jack Kennedy’s Spaceports blog. McAuliffe, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, added that he would “leverage his contacts to pull more commercial space launch firms” to the facility. Moran, meanwhile, expressed his support for the spaceport in a Washington Post online chat last month, saying that MARS has “tremendous potential”.

McDonnell, meanwhile, expressed his support for MARS in an interview with Human Events last week. He didn’t explicitly say he would increase funding for the spaceport, but did say that “there are some things to do to boost state support of that, to help them with more research and development, to help them get more contracts.” MARS also is mentioned at the very end of the “Jobs and Economic Growth” section of his campaign web site: “We will set a goal of developing the top commercial space port in the country at Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore.”

The same section of McDonnell’s web site also notes his support for “the safe offshore exploration and drilling of oil and natural gas”. This could, potentially, raise a conflict with the spaceport: some fear that offshore drilling operations could sharply restrict or event prevent launch operations from Wallops because of range safety concerns. Moran raised that point in his Washington Post chat: “We can’t realize the potential of this innovative approach if we build oil rigs off the Eastern Shore.”

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