Thursday, January 6, 2011

Harrison "Jack" Schmitt to Be New Energy Secretary

Gov. Susana Martinez has tapped a former astronaut and former U.S. senator to be her new secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources.

Schmitt, 75, was on the last manned flight to the moon in 1972. He was the 12th and last -- or let's be optimistic and say "most recent" man to set foot on the moon. (But, as he pointed out in this morning's press conference, his crewmate Gene Cernan was the last to get back into the Apollo 17 lunar module.)

Republican Schmitt, a New Mexico native who grew up in Silver City, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976. He beat incumbent Democrat Joe Montoya. Many believe the turning point in that race came when Montoya gave a speech mocking Schmitt, saying a monkey could be trained to go into space.

Schmitt lost his re-election bid to Jeff Bingaman in 1982.

In recent years, he said, he has worked as a consultant and has served on various boards of energy companies and other businesses. He also has been an adjunct professor in the Department of Engineering Physics of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In a 2009 interview in The New Mexican, Schmitt said he did not believe humans were to blame for global warming.

We're very skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming," he told my colleague Tom Sharpe. "Not that the planet hasn't warmed. We know it has or we'd all still be in the Ice Age. But it has not reached a crisis proportion and, even among us skeptics, there's disagreement about how much man has been responsible for that warming."

Though it wasn't listed in the press release, Schmitt also is a pretty good photographer (see below).