On October 19 and 20, 2011, author Loretta Hall attended the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The following quotes are from presentations made at that symposium:

"As you know, in July, we witnessed the successful conclusion of NASA's 30 year Space Shuttle Program. That was an extraordinary human accomplishment. . . . But, contrary to what you might have hears, this marks the beginning, not the end of an even more remarkable story of human space development. . . . Our job is just beginning. With the support of the President and Congress, NASA has made a renewed commitment to human spaceflight, and we are taking the necessary-if difficult-steps today to ensure America's pre-eminence for years to come." Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator

"Our customers are the space launch customers ad also terrestrial tourists. . . . The biggest challenge and opportunity for us is to provide first-class customer service to our space launch customers and inspire and delight our terrestrial tourists." Christine Anderson, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority

"We need to be mindful of the fact that we are out here in the desert and we do have neighbors. By neighbors, I don't mean the ranchers to the north; I mean antelope and, most particularly, the oryx.... Boy, they can jump! We need to make sure we don't get any oryx on top of the roof of the Gateway to Space building." Aaron Prescott, Director of the Commercial Division of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, commenting on the 8-foot-high game fence surrounding the terminal/hanger facility and runway, during a spaceport tour following ISPCS

"We are working to invest the nation's valuable tax dollars to assure a healthier, more competitive industrial base that advances technology, provides more scientific benefit, and expands humanity's presence farther than ever before, while creating new markets, new industries, and new jobs in order to advance our national security and economic future." Lori Garver, NASA Deputy Administrator, at ISPCS 2011

"Our rocket testing, currently, is ground based. We're hoping, by the second quarter of next year, to have a rocket in the vehicle and be embarking on the powered phase of our test flight program." Scott Ostrem, Chief Engineer at The Spaceship Company, at ISPCS 2011

"To truly be successful, those of us in the government are going to have to learn how to let go a little bit more; how to not be in control all of the time; and how to trust other Departments and Agencies, and our colleagues in industry. Some people seem to think that private industry can't possibly build safe and reliable systems, since they will always be tempted to cut corners in order to maximize their profits. Now I know that is not the case. Think about it. If you develop a reputation for killing or maiming your customers, it is just not good for business." George Nield, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, at ISPCS 2011

"Human performance in an environment equivalent to space is now known to be possible." -- Col. John Paul Stapp, August 21, 1957, following Manhigh II flight

"I came to White Sands in August 1946 and saw almost all the German V2 rockets fired along with our American rockets. . . . We had some dangerously close calls, but it was very challenging, very exciting. I saw a lot of them explode on the launch or in the air. Very spectacular fireworks, I can tell you. These were powerful missiles. I tracked a lot of them myself with . . . telescopes." -- Clyde Tombaugh, Chief of Optical Measurements at White Sands Proving Ground, 1946-1950

"Currently, we can only accommodate vehicles up to approximately 24 feet long and 5 feet wide. New vehicles under development are much longer, and some have wings for gliding recovery. The new roll-back vehicle integration building will let us handle these new vehicles as they come on line." New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson, August 26, 2011, when NASA awarded an infrastructure grant for improving the spaceport's vertical launch facility

"People used to tell me it would be impossible to build your own spaceship and your own spaceship company and take people into space. That's the sort of challenge that I love: to prove them wrong." Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic

Wernher von Braun
co-authored an article titled "Can We Get to Mars?" in the April 30, 1954, issue of Collier's magazine. The following excerpts show that even though rocket technology was quite advanced by the early 1950s, scientists were worried about the potential dangers of manned space travel. Experiments with rockets and very high altitude helium balloons in New Mexico ultimately provided important answers.

"Can the human body stand prolonged weightlessness? . . . Over a period of months in outer space, muscles accustomed to fighting the pull of gravity could shrink from disuse. . . . Some sort of elaborate spring exercises may be the answer."

"Far worse than the risk of atrophied muscles is the hazard of cosmic rays. An overdose of the deep-penetrating atomic particles, which act like the invisible radiation of an atomic-bomb glast can cause blindness, cell damage and possibly cancer. . . . There is no material that offers practical protection against cosmic rays-practical, that is, for space travel. Space engineers could provide a barrier by making the cabin walls of lead several feet thick-but that would add hundreds of tons to the weight of the space vehicle. A more realistic plan might be to surround the cabin with the fuel tanks, thus providing the added safeguard of a two or three-foot thickness of liquid."

"Many billions of the tiny bullets [meteors], most of them about the size of a grain of sand, speed wildly through space at speeds more than 150,000 miles an hour. . . . Dime-sized chunks . . . will rip through the [rocket's protective] skin like machine-gun bullets. If they strike anything solid, they'll explode with some force. If not, they'll leave through the other side of the ship. . . . Holes will have to be plugged to maintain pressure. The shock wave created by the meteor's extreme speed . . . the friction created by their passage through the cabin's atmosphere will create enough heat to singe the eyebrows of a man standing close by. . . . astronomers estimate that one out of 10 ships on a 16-month voyage [to Mars and back] might be damaged badly."

"I am convinced that we have, or will acquire, the basic knowledge to solve all the physical problems of a flight to Mars. But how about the psychological problem? Can a man retain his sanity while cooped up with many other men in a crowded area? . . . Little mannerisms-the way a man cracks his knuckles, blows his nose, the way he grins, talks or gestures-create tension and hatred which could lead to murder."

Harrison (Jack) Schmitt
was the only geologist to explore the moon in person. A native New Mexican, Schmitt later served his state in the US Senate. The following excerpts are from "A Field Trip to the Moon," which he wrote in 1996:

"My presence on the crew of Apollo 17 resulted, of course, from the fact that my professional experience included geology, and a logical desire existed in many circles for a geologist to explore the moon before the end of the Apollo Program. Decision makers apparently also believed that my acquired skills in jet aircraft, helicopters, and spacecraft simulators had prepared me to perform well as a Lunar Module Pilot. I just thought going to the moon would be a great idea!"

"My first view out of the right-hand window, looking northwest across the valley at mountains 2000 meters high, encompassed only part of a truly breathtaking vista and geologist's paradise. Only later, when I could walk a few tens of meters away from the Challenger, did the full and still unexpected impact of the awe-inspiring setting hit me: a brilliant sun, brighter than any desert sun, fully illuminated valley walls outlined against a blacker-than-black sky, with our beautiful, blue-and-white marbled Earth hanging over the southwestern mountains."

"Questions often arise as to whether robotic exploration of the moon or any other planet would be less expensive than human exploration and provide all the essential scientific return. This question, of course, can never be answered to everyone's satisfaction if only because of sincere disagreements over what constitutes 'essential science.' Clearly, robotic systems will and must make increasingly important contributions; however, the spontaneous human observation, integration, and interpretation of the total dynamic situation involved in space activities, and a calculated human response to that situation, will be as irreplaceable in the future as throughout the past."

"The legacy of our efforts on Manhigh can be seen in the successes of NASA's Project Mercury. We pioneered the systems and processes that would be needed to put a man into orbit, and we demonstrated that human beings can survive and work efficiently in a space environment."--Joe Kittinger in his autobiography Come Up and Get Me

"No one ever held Enos. If you had him he was on a little strap. Enos was a good chimp and he was smart, but he didn't take to people. They had the wrong impression of him; they said he was a mean chimp and so forth, but he just didn't take to cuddling." Ed Dittmer, trainer of Enos, who rode the first occupied orbital flight of Project Manhigh

"Development of the space station is as inevitable as the rising of the sun; man has already poked his nose into space and he is not likely to pull it back." Wernher von Braun in Collier's, March 22, 1952

"When that shrieking rocket motor is finally shut off, you literally step across a threshold into another realm, where beauty and blessed peace and quiet reign, graced by the instant karma of weightlessness."--Brian Binnie, pilot of the X Prize-winning flight of SpaceShipOne, the precursor to Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicles that will operate from Spaceport America

"You cannot have breakthroughs without taking risk. The day before something is truly a 'breakthrough' it is a 'crazy idea' . . . like computing on silicon rather than vacuum tubes. If it's not a crazy idea then it's probably not a breakthrough but an incremental improvement."--Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize and X Prize Cup competitions

"I'm not really motivated as an entrepreneur so much as an engineer."--John Carmack, founder of Armadillo Aerospace and winner of two Lunar Lander Challenge prizes totaling $850,000 in the X Prize Cup series

"Virgin Galactic has shown in the past few years how private sector investment and innovation can lead to a rapid transformation of stagnant technologies. We are now very close to making the dream of suborbital space a reality for thousands of people at a cost and level of safety unimaginable even in the recent past. We know that many of those same people, including myself, would also love to take an orbital space trip in the future, so we are putting our weight behind new technologies that could deliver that safely whilst driving down the enormous current costs of manned orbital flight by millions of dollars."--Richard Branson, December 2010

X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis once aspired to be a NASA astronaut. When he met a current astronaut in the late 1980s, he found out that only about half of the astronauts ever got to fly. The ones who got to fly only got one or two shots at it. "That's not my vision of spaceflight," Diamandis decided. "I want to go when I want to go, just like if you're a scuba diver or a mountain climber."

Diamandis' friend Gregory Maryniak helped him brainstorm the concept of the X-Prize. After he saw survey results that 60 percent of all Americans and Canadians would like to take a trip to space, Maryniak said, "We have met the payload of the future, and it's us! It's people: carbon-based, self-replicating payloads that you can make using simple tools you have at home."

"I had a great relationship with Ham. He was wonderful; he performed so well and was a remarkably easy chimp to handle. I'd hold him and he was just like a little kid. He'd put his arm around me and he'd play."--Ed Dittmer, who helped train the first chimpanzee to take a suborbital flight in Project Mercury

"Despite their grueling schedule, the Mercury men did have a little free time. A few played golf and one party went skiing. Others hired sports cars to tour the countryside, and none of the gastrointestinal tests discouraged the candidates from eating enormous quantities of Mexican food in Albuquerque's Old Town."--Dr. Randy Lovelace, who supervised the exhaustive physical exams of the candidates for Project Mercury astronaut selection.

"He was a scientist. He would ask, 'Where's the proof?' And there isn't any."--Biographer David Clary when he was asked what Robert Goddard would have thought of the Roswell Incident

"It has often proved true that the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow." Robert Goddard

"The only think more fun than flying an airplane is jumping out of one." Joe Kittinger, who parachuted from an altitude of 102,800 feet over New Mexico in 1960

Sometime around 1950, astronomer Clyde Tombaugh told one of his New Mexico State University students that "if a manned rocket were to be launched for Mars right now---even if it could carry only enough fuel to reach an orbit some 3,000 miles from the surface of that alien world, with no hope of landing there or of returning to Earth---then he, Tombaugh, would still go along on the trip, just to be able to observe the Red Planet close up, his telescope unhampered by the Earth's heavy atmosphere." From Men, Rockets and Space Rats by Lloyd Mallan

On August 8, 1915, 33-year-old Robert Goddard wrote in his diary: "Dreamed at 6:15 a.m. of going to moon, and interested, going and coming, on where going to land respectively on moon and earth. Set off red fire at a prearranged time and place so all can see it. Was cold, and not enough oxygen density to breathe-got into chamber for a while. Saw and took photos of earth with small Kodak while there-two for stereoscopes-and glimpsed earth once during return-South America? Not enough oxygen when I opened my helmet to see if so. Used combination crowbar and ladder. The light was rather dim. Used tripod arrangement, to hold in position. [Legs] were folded in here, during the transit." Goddard spent the rest of his life trying to develop a rocket that could be used for space travel. He did his most productive work in New Mexico, 1930-1932 and 1934-1941.

"Although our own solar system is believed to support no other life than on Earth, other stars in the galaxy may have hundreds of thousands of habitable worlds. Races on these worlds may have been able to utilize the tremendous amounts of power required to bridge the space between the stars." Astronomer and telescope builder Clyde Tombaugh

In October 2010, I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Kittinger, a former Air Force test pilot who became the first man in space. In 1957 he piloted a helium balloon to 96,000 feet; later flights took him as high as 102,800 feet above New Mexico. I asked him how he, as an airplane test pilot, felt when he was told to learn to fly a gas balloon as part of the Manhigh project. He said that it was another form of aviation, so he was excited to try it. The fact that the Air Force would provide the training was a bonus. He summarized his reaction by punching his fist into the air and exclaiming, "Hot damn!"

"Proved to my self one time at a party that a zero gravity state would have no effect on eating or digestion. Proved it by standing on my head and eating a cracker!"-Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh

In January 1961, Ham (a chimpanzee trained at Holloman Air Force Base's Aeromedical Research Laboratory) flew a suborbital mission as part of NASA's Mercury Program. He experienced six and a half minutes of weightlessness-the same amount of time expected on a Virgin Galactic suborbital flight. According to NASA archives, "Ham's survival and performance, despite a host of harrowing mischances . . . raised the confidence level of the astronauts and capsule engineers alike."

"Not only did Excelsior III set the mark for the highest manned balloon flight, but nobody had ever been outside of a pressurized cabin at anything approaching 100,000 feet. We'd shown NASA that a space walk was possible."-Joe Kittinger, who parachuted out of that balloon at an altitude of 102,800 feet

"One of the psychological effects, a profoundly curious one as it seemed, became more and more apparent in the increasing gaiety and good humor of everyone connected with the enterprise. As if this lightening of the human substance (the too too solid flesh) lightened the essence as well, inducing a mood of sheer playfulness." -- George Meeter, former feature and news writer at Holloman Air Force Base, describing a 90-minute airplane flight consisting of a series of steep climbs and dives that produced intermittent periods of weightlessness.

"Space flight is certainly what we're reaching toward with these experiments on the rocket deceleration sled." -- John Paul Stapp, about the High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base

"Working with Dr. Goddard, I learned one thing: there is no point to not believing that everything is possible." -- Charles Mansur, a Robert Goddard assistant who later became chief of the Design and Preparation Section of the Propulsion Branch at the White Sands Missile Range
Photo Credits
Robert Goddard towing one of his rockets to the launch site near Roswell about 1931, courtesy of NASA.

WhiteKnightTwo carrying SpaceShipTwo at Spaceport America runway dedication flyover, photo by Loretta Hall.
Unless otherwise credited, all material on this site is © Loretta Hall 2010-2015.
New Mexico's Space Voices Archives, 2011
The following quotes were featured on the New Mexico Space Voices page during 2011: