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Hoopla Surrounds Satellite Launch With PM-Space Shuttle, Bjt

June 17, 1985

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mexico, officials say, is entering the space age. Government publications boast the nation is showing just what a ″driving force″ it is in the world.

Newspaper ads urge Mexicans to travel to Florida to be part of the ″historic event.″

The build-up - and burst of national pride - is for today’s scheduled launching of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery, which will carry and put into orbit Mexico’s first communications satellite, Morelos I.

Later in the year, a Mexican astronaut will ride aboard a shuttle flight carrying the nation’s second satellite, Morelos II.

Mexico will be the second Latin American nation to have its own satellite in orbit - Brazil was the first - and the first to have an astronaut on a shuttle voyage.

When the trip scheduled for Nov. 27 was recently announced to the press, astronaut Rodolfo Neri Vela said it ″will launch us into the space age.″

Neri, a stern-faced engineer, may not eclipse Fernando Valenzuela, the Mexican-born pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, in national popularity. But there is an obvious sense of pride that Mexico, a developing nation burdened by a $96 billion foreign debt, has been able to attain such a scientific achievement.

At a construction site in the western part of the city, contractor Tomas Cadena Ramirez said the launching of the satellites was necessary to improve the nation’s communications system. He said he planned to watch today’s launching on television.

A stonecutter at the same site said he knew nothing about the satellites or Neri. Pedro Gonzales, a security guard standing in front of a nearby house, said he found the upcoming events ″interesting but not important″ to him or his family. He and his friends, he said, like sports better.

The nation’s economic woes have intruded only somewhat on the official euphoria.

Excelsior, one of the nation’s leading newspapers, ran a cartoon recently showing the satellite going up while the nation’s currency - the battered and bandaged peso - went downhill.

But government publications have lauded the $150 million satellite project.

″The country shows just how much of a driving force it is in the world, in taking its rightful place in the history of satellite communications,′ ′ boasts an article in the current magazine for the government-owned Aeromexico airlines.

The magazine of the other state-owned airline, Mexicana, says the satellite project is a ″symbol of independence″ aptly named for independence hero Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon.

Noting 1985 is the 175th anniversary of Mexican independence, the magazine says, ″Perhaps this is the most eloquent manner in which the Mexicans of today ... may reinforce Mexican sovereignty through projects, which, like the Morelos satellite system, enhance national freedom.″

The satellites are expected to meet requirements for domestic communications in this nation of 75 million people. An estimated 18 million Mexicans in rural areas still have no access to telephones and television.

Daniel Diaz Diaz, secretary of communications and transportation, said the communications technology should gradually reduce the differences that exist in Mexican society.

″The satellites will basically be used to prevent the division of Mexico into first and second classes,″ another department official, Miguel Eduardo Sanchez Ruiz, was quoted as saying in a newspaper interview.

The satellites were built by Hughes Aircraft Co. in California. Once they enter orbit, Mexico’s space control center in Ixtalapa, in the southern part of the capital, will take over control of their positions and directions.

The system has 186 receiver stations on the ground and seven receiver- transmi tter stations. The satellites are designed to operate for at least nine years.

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