Aeronautics Panel OKs Name Change as It Vies for Space Shuttle Field

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The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission soon may be renamed the Oklahoma Aeronautics and Space Commission as the state picks up the pace in its bid to become an alternate operational field for the next-generation space shuttle.

The commission, in Oklahoma City for its regular monthly meeting, informally approved the name change Thursday. State Sen. Gilmer Capps, D-Snyder, said he would attach it to an existing bill about to be passed by the Senate.

Commission members also approved a resolution supporting and endorsing Oklahoma's bid to land the spaceport at the abandoned Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base near Elk City. Leo Presley, former director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, has been hired to write the proposal and head the state's efforts, Capps said. Capps and aeronautics commissioner Bob Triplett initiated the state effort in early January when they were invited to attend a briefing by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Aerospace States Association in Palmdale, Calif. Triplett and former astronaut Tom Stafford are Oklahoma's representatives to the Aerospace States Association. A feasibility study for the spaceport is under way, funded by $50,000 from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The Florida Space Commission, which operates NASA's space facilities in Florida, invited Oklahoma to become a partner in the effort, Triplett said. "They said they needed a partner they could trust, one with different weather patterns than Florida has. They want us and need us as much as we need them in this effort." Florida wants Oklahoma as a partner in several ventures, including education, Triplett said. A resolution for the partnership is being drawn up in Florida and will be sent to the commission for approval. "They want to do this (partnership) commission-to-commission rather than state-to-state because future elected officials may suddenly want to end it," Triplett said. No state money will be tied up in the partnership, which also will contain an escape clause which either state can initiate. "But if we aren't going into this for the long haul, we shouldn't do it," Triplett said. …


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