Say this for SpaceX (and Tesla Motors) founder and CEO Elon Musk: He doesn’t have a low opinion of his abilities or the importance of his ideas. The eleventy-billionaire broke ground this week on SpaceX’s private, commercial spaceflight launch facility just outside of Brownsville, and he has high ambitions for what that means for the future of not just his company, or the Rio Grande Valley, but all of mankind.
Musk believes we must look way beyond, to the final frontier. The best hope for humanity’s survival, he says, is to colonize other worlds in the event of a planet-wide disaster that could wipe out our species, like a pandemic or asteroid impact.
“I really think it’s important that we’re on multiple planets and a spacefaring civilization so that sort of preserves the future of humanity, it’s sort of life insurance collectively.” Musk said in a TV interview with comedian Stephen Colbert.
That future of humanity of which Musk speaks now runs through the Valley, Musk announced at the groundbreaking ceremony with Governor Perry on Monday. “It very well could be the first person to go to another planet could launch from this location,” the Texas Tribune quoted Musk as saying, explaining that the Cameron County SpaceX location is going to be the sort of commercial spaceport that doesn’t currently exist in the United States, mankind having previously left such things in the hands of various military installations like Cape Canaveral in Florida and Cape Vandenberg in California. “What’s important for the future of space exploration is to have a truly commercial launch site, just as we have commercial airports.”
There are certainly reasons to be excited about Musk’s ambitions—I mean, Mars! (There have also been concerns about the environmental impact of the facility, as well.) But perhaps more than the existential excitement of future Martian-Americans flying in and out of Texas, the impact of the 300+ jobs the $100 million facility is expected to bring to the Rio Grande Valley, in a region that has not historically been on the cutting edge of technological advancement, has people pumped. The new UT-RGV is expected to work with SpaceX, as well, as student and faculty researchers will have access to SpaceX facilities as part of a partnership between the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and the UT System, as part of a research center adorably named “STARGATE,” stylized in all capital letters in the UT system’s press release.
All of this is good news for Texas, at least economically (maybe less so if you’re a migratory shorebird who lives at Boca Chica Beach), and it perhaps eases some of the sting of the fact that Musk’s other big facility announcement did not involve Texas. That facility, of course, is the Tesla Gigafactory, the $5 billion battery plant that is expected to create 6,500 jobs, and which was announced earlier this month as being built in Nevada, a state that is not Texas.
Still, while Musk’s dream of an electric car in every garage might originate out of Reno, his dream of a city on Mars could well end up originating out of Brownsville. So while in the battle of the economic impact, Nevada is the clear winner, in the battle of the impact for the future survival of mankind in the event of pandemic or full-scale environmental collapse, it’s Texas forever—or whatever the Martian equivalent of Texas turns out to be.
(AP Photo/Valley Morning Star, David Pike)