Virginia is (still) for spaceport lovers

This week Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, toured the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), the commercial spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia. He used the visit to release his plans to support the continued development of MARS to make it “America’s top commercial Spaceport”.

The biggest part of the plan is a pledge to increase the state’s funding of MARS ten-fold—although that would only increase it to $1 million, an idea of how much of a shoestring budget the spaceport has operated under. (MARS does also get funding from Maryland.) Other aspects of the plan include creating an “aerospace business roundtable” to plan for future projects at the spaceport, “aggressively” recruit companies to use the spaceport, and promote space tourism initiatives that would use MARS (as the plan states, McDonnell “understands the value of our hospitality industry and fully intends to promote our Commonwealth to ‘space lovers’”).

One issue that the plan doesn’t address, though, is any potential conflict between use of MARS and offshore drilling, which McDonnell has endorsed. Some have previously raised concerns that offshore drilling could greatly restrict operations at MARS.

Meanwhile, the campaign of the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, circulated a letter (not posted on his campaign web site) noting his support for the spaceport. While the timing of the release suggested to some that Deeds was playing a “grown up version of follow the leader”, it turns out the letter to the board of supervisors in Accomack County, where MARS is located, was submitted on Monday, three days before McDonnell’s announcement. In that letter Deeds supports some of the same initiatives to recruit companies, including space tourism, to MARS, although he does not call for any specific increase in state funding for the spaceport.

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