The Space X Starbase shapes the Texas community around it


SpaceX's first SN20 orbiter is stacked atop its massive Super Heavy Booster 4.

The Verge discovered how Starbasse shapes a rural Texas community.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP (Getty Images)

Since 2019, Elon Musk launches his Space X rockets from a remote point near the Texas-Mexico border. As with many of Musk’s endeavors, the launches have drawn many of his die-hard supporters to the state, but the company’s expansion has also driven locals away.

Now, a new report from The edge discovers the fascinating reasons die-hard Musk fans have for turning their lives upside down and moving south. But, it also reveals the environmental and human cost of the ever-expanding space enterprise.

According to the report, there is a place called Rocket Ranch in Boca Chica, near the Texas border with Mexico. There, fans of Musk’s rocket company can congregate to watch test flights from Space X’s nearby Starbase site. From this vantage point, they can see the company grow before their eyes.

A fan The edge spoke with, called Anthony Gomez, visited the site for a launch and quickly wanted to make the move permanent. The site reports:

“Anthony’s brief visit to Rocket Ranch turned into an overnight stay, then a few days, then a full week. It was long enough to convince him that he wanted to make the situation permanent. “I fell in love with the place,” Anthony said. “So I just sort of asked if there was a way to absorb myself into it somehow.”

“He was determined to put his life in order and move to Boca Chica full time.”

Elon Musk gestures as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase.

What do you want me to do?
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP (Getty Images)

This fierce sequel to Musk’s space exploration adventure sets the company apart from other, more “traditional” engineering companies. But it’s more than just harmless space tourism at work here. The edge reports:

“Any perceived doubt or criticism of SpaceX or Musk is met with extreme vitriol, and I was actually scared seeing some of the replies to my tweets or even an article considered overly pessimistic.

“Being a woman adds another layer to it all. Often it’s a lot of men yelling at me online, calling me a bitch. I mostly brushed it off as online behavior. But it’s enough to make me hesitate when I meet a real-life SpaceX follower.

Despite concerns surrounding a meeting with die-hard Space X fans, writer Loren Grush spent time at the Rocket Ranch with Gomez and other enthusiasts. There she uncovered the reasoning behind their unwavering support for the company and discovered why they were willing to turn their lives upside down for it. She writes:

“I was fully prepared for an otherworldly experience here at Rocket Ranch when I met Anthony Gomez, who was co-managing the property at the time.

The atmosphere was communal. Guests who were staying in nearby drafts would come in and out of the main building if they needed something from the kitchen. Some were in town, like me, for Elon Musk’s latest Starship event; others were living full-time at the Rocket Ranch for the foreseeable future. People were buzzing in anticipation of Musk’s update.

SpaceX's Starbase facility is seen near the village of Boca Chica in South Texas

Space X has gradually increased the number of launches from Starbase.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP (Getty Images)

At the ranch, fans describe themselves as “outcasts” from other circles. In this little corner of Texas, “nerds, jerks and people made fun of” have found a place where they can gather and share their enthusiasm for Space X.

Grush interviews accountants who gave up their nine-to-five to monitor Space X, as well as a tech pundit who now makes a living by live-streaming the Starbase facility. It’s fascinating to hear about the types of people who have dedicated their lives to tracking the progress of the company.

But in addition to bringing Musk supporters to the region, Space X’s expansion has had a deeper impact on the surrounding region.

An explosion in the number of launches planned from the site could impact protected environments. And residents who have spent their entire lives in the area are struggling to cope with the ongoing changes.

A sign welcomes you to Boca Chica near SpaceX's Starbase facility in South Texas

The inhabitants were driven out of the village of Boca Chica.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP (Getty Images)

Grush explains that the nearby village of Boca Chica “looked like this dark cloud” and something that shouldn’t be discussed when talking to Space X fans. There, locals talked about the “nightmare” of selling their properties to Musk’s company.

Residents said “the company seemed to get away with everything” as it began testing rockets at Starbase. Locals would get little to no warning before some launches, before the company finally started trying to buy people.

Despite a united front against the sale, residents soon began to leave the village to be replaced by laborers. The edge reports:

“The village of Boca Chica is now very different from what it once was. The mostly brown and beige brick houses have been revamped, painted white and black in the signature SpaceX style. Employees and executives have moved in. Even Elon Musk lives in one of the houses when he is at Starbase overseeing operations.

A bird conservation sign sits near SpaceX's Starbase facility near the village of Boca Chica in South Texas.

Starbase impacts the people and wildlife around it.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP (Getty Images)

The whole piece shows the fascinating juxtaposition with people searching for meaning through Musk’s efforts, and individuals losing their sense of place as Space X expands.

I highly recommend heading to The edge read the piece in its entirety, you can do it here.

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