Jack Schmitt to be New Mexico's Secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources

Jack Schmitt to be New Mexico's Secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources

Apollo astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who served as a U.S. Senator representing his home state of New Mexico from 1976-1982, has been nominated to head New Mexico’s department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources.

Newly inaugurated Governor Susana Martinez announced her nomination of Schmitt yesterday. Schmitt is a Harvard-trained geologist who holds the distinction of being the only scientist to set foot on the Moon. He was part of the Apollo 17 crew, the last Apollo lunar mission, with crewmates Commander Gene Cernan and Command Module Pilot Ron Evans. Schmitt and Cernan spent 75 hours on the lunar surface in December 1972. Schmitt reentered the lunar module first, so Cernan, not Schmitt, was the last man to walk on the Moon.

Schmitt chaired the NASA Advisory Council during most of Mike Griffin’s tenure as NASA Administrator. In addition to his public service, he is perhaps best known as a strong advocate for mining helium-3 on the Moon and bringing it to Earth to power nuclear fusion reactors. He wrote a book explaining his concept entitled Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space.

Schmitt’s nomination was not greeted enthusiastically in all circles. The Democratic Party of New Mexico issued a press release referring to him as a “global warming denier.” Its Executive Director, Scott Forrester accused the governor of appointing someone who is “at odds with the basic tenets of science and reason.” Forrester went on to say that it was a “clear signal to Martinez’s big-oil backers that the days of basic protections for New Mexicans’ air and drinking water are over.”

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