A new state Senate bill could make Wisconsin space shuttle launches a reality.
If signed by Gov. Jim Doyle, Senate Bill 352 could lead to the construction of a state spaceport to be located in Sheboygan.
"[SB 352] would create the Wisconsin Aerospace Authority, which will be a state authority that will look into the aerospace industry," said Eric Schutt, spokesperson for bill author Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan.
Both the Senate and Assembly already passed the bill last month.
While Schutt said that a Sheboygan spaceport could "at some future date serve as a launch point for rocket plane trips," he added that is not the intent of the bill.
Sheboygan Mayor Juan Perez said that while SB 352 may actually make the area able to have a space shuttle land or take off, he does not see that in the near future. His expectations of the bill, he said, are more realistic.
"The Sheboygan spaceport cannot but help Sheboygan and its economic development and in our efforts to help promote tourism," Perez said. "It will [also] be a very useful project for our school district and local residents."
Perez added that the spaceport would include a theater, planetarium, retail space, restaurant and museum — all things that "citizens of Sheboygan can be proud of and make full use of, too."
Additionally, a spaceport would spur economic development in the Sheboygan area, Perez said.
There is wide support for the bill in Sheboygan. The project itself was unanimously approved by the city's Common Council, Perez said.
SB 352 supporters also said its passage would not only help Sheboygan, but also the state of Wisconsin as a whole.
Businesses across the state have voiced strong support for the bill, Schutt said, adding the spaceport would help a wide variety of industries.
The bill, with its strong bipartisan support, is expected to be signed by the governor soon.
"The timeline hasn't been set, but it will be within the next three weeks," Doyle spokesperson Dan Leistikow said.
Leistikow added the bill would not cost the state or taxpayers any additional money, but would simply allow the Sheboygan Spaceport Authority to set up a board of directors to oversee the process.
Wisconsin would then be eligible for federal assistance to finance the Sheboygan spaceport, which will also be funded by fundraising.
"It helps [Wisconsin] to get federal support for some of the ongoing efforts that have been in Sheboygan for the last few years," Schutt said, citing Sheboygan's effort to develop a space education center in the city's downtown area.
According to Leistikow, Doyle sees the development of a spaceport as a novel idea that will bring more attention to Sheboygan and ultimately Wisconsin.
The complex is expected to cost $15.5 million and will be placed where the Sheboygan Armory currently stands, according to a release from Leibham. The opening is planned for March 2008.
"It makes this area here one of the first areas [in the Midwest] to have this type of facility," Perez said.