Sunday, January 2, 2011

Our Science / Government Past Is Prologue

At least since World War II, much of New Mexico’s economy has had to do with the federal government. That will continue. The federal government does national defense and what might be called “big science.” They do a lot of this in New Mexico. That’s why whining that “the state is too reliant on federal, state and local government” gets annoying. Besides, the assertion begs the question of just how reliant should we be.
Two items from The Economist Technology Quarterly convey our past and future in science with the feds. See You will have to register.
Some of us have heard of Hyperion Power Generation, which came out of Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Economist says, “Hyperion Power Generation, a firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is building components for what it calls a “nuclear battery”. The refrigerator-sized Hyperion Power Module (HPM) (small nuclear) reactor will shift much of the building from field to factory, where a controlled environment reduces costs. HPMs would be delivered by truck with enough uranium to run for about ten years. They would be constructed in batches with interchangeable parts and cost about $100m each. And they need little human oversight to operate. Five companies, located in America, Britain, Canada, China and India, have put down deposits for an HPM.”
For 80 years, space and New Mexico have been intertwined. Remember Robert Goddard? Here’s a recent development that not only is the government, it’s the military. The problem is that today’s satellites are large, expensive and slow to put together.
“In 2007 America’s Congress ordered the Department of Defense to establish a body to lead the shift toward quick-build, quick-launch replacements. Later that year the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORSO) opened at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, staffed with experts from America’s air force, army, marines and navy, a handful of intelligence agencies, and NASA, the space agency. The result, says the office’s director, Peter Wegner, has been an ‘explosion in innovation.’”
Ah, innovation. Right here on the Rio. Done by the government.
Of course, our economic development efforts should focus on the private sector. Equally we need to embrace and celebrate the excellence around us. And not whine about it.

1 comment:

Robert Rhodes said...

We need to learn how to use the science and innovation to grow New Mexico otherwise it is just another check