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NMSU played a key role in helping New Mexico land the X Prize

New Mexico State University's Physical Science Laboratory (PSL) played a major role in helping New Mexico put forward its proposal to host the X Prize Cup. Other partners on the project were White Sands Missile Range and the State of New Mexico, through its Office of Space Commercialization.


ll Richardson announced today that New Mexico has been selected to host the X Prize events. The X Prize is a $10 million cash prize that will be awarded to the first team to privately finance, build and launch a three-person spaceship 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) into space. The spaceship must return safely to earth and conduct a successful repeat flight within two weeks. More than 20 teams from 7 countries are expected to compete for the prize as early as this fall. New Mexico and Florida were the finalists to host the X Prize events.

The initial competition is expected to lead to an annual event in which the latest generation of privately developed space vehicles would compete in a series of races. Launches would initially be staged at White Sands Missile Range. They would later be moved to a commercial spaceport planned for a site north of Las Cruces. New Mexico economic development officials say the X Prize Cup could be the space-age equivalent of the Oshkosh Air Show and bring 700,000 visitors a year to the state.

The X Prize competition is sponsored by the St. Louis-based X Prize Foundation, which was formed to provide private-sector incentives to make future space travel frequent and affordable for the public.

Specific PSL contributions to New Mexico's X Prize Cup proposal included serving as prime contractor for the State of New Mexico on its proposal and preparing the environmental impact statement for the proposal.

Several PSL employees, including Bill Gutman and Bernie McCune, also have been working since 1994 to bring a commercial spaceport to New Mexico.

PSL will continue to be involved on the X Prize project as a subcontractor for the New Mexico Office of Space Commercialization.

"We have a lot of work to do now," McCune said, noting that PSL will be working on safety studies and licensing issues with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The X Prize also is expected to provide new educational opportunities for students and new research opportunities for faculty members. Departments ranging from those in the College of Engineering to the Hotel/Restaurant/Tourism Management Department in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics are expected to be involved with the project.

"This will do some amazing things for southern New Mexico," said Don Birx, director of PSL.