Since 2019, Elon Musk has been launching his Space X rockets from a remote point near the border between Texas and Mexico. As with many of Musk’s endeavors, the launches have attracted many of his diehard followers to the state, but the company’s expansion has also driven away locals.
Now, a new report from The Verge uncovers the fascinating reasons hardened Musk fans have for upending their lives and moving south. But, it also uncovers the environmental and human cost of the ever-expanding space company.
According to the report, there’s a spot called Rocket Ranch in Boca Chica, close to Texas’ border with Mexico. There, fans of Musk’s rocket company can gather together to watch test flights from Space X’s nearby Starbase site. From this vantage point, they can see the company grow before their very eyes.
One enthusiast The Verge spoke with, called Anthony Gomez, visited the site for one 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 couple of days, then a full week. It was long enough to convince him that he wanted to make the situation permanent. ‘I had fallen in love with the place,’ Anthony said. ‘So I just kind of asked if there was a way that I could absorb myself into it somehow’.
“He was committed to packing up his life and moving to Boca Chica full time.”
This fierce following of Musk’s space exploration adventure sets the company apart from other more “traditional” engineering firms. But it’s more than just some harmless space tourism at work here. The Verge reports:
“Any perceived doubt or criticism of either SpaceX or Musk is met with extreme vitriol, and I’ve actually become frightened seeing some of the replies to my tweets or even an article that’s seen as too pessimistic.
“Being a woman adds another layer to the whole thing. Oftentimes, it’s a lot of men yelling at me online, calling me a bitch. I’ve mostly brushed it off as online behavior. But it’s enough to make me hesitate when I meet a SpaceX believer in real life.”
Despite the worries surrounding an encounter with die-hard Space X fans, writer Loren Grush spent time at Rocket Ranch with Gomez and other enthusiasts. There, she uncovered the reasoning behind their unfaltering support for the company, and found out why they were prepared to upend their lives 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 that point.
The vibe was communal. Guests who were staying in the nearby airstreams would come in and out of the main building if they needed something from the kitchen. Some were in town, as I was, for Elon Musk’s latest Starship event; others were living full time at Rocket Ranch for the foreseeable future. People were buzzing in anticipation of Musk’s update.”
At the ranch, fans describe themselves as “outcasts” from other circles. In this little corner of Texas, the “nerds and dorks and people that were made fun of” have found a place where they can come together and share their excitement for Space X.
Grush speaks with accountants who have abandoned their nine to fives to monitor Space X, as well as a tech expert who now makes their living by livestreaming the Starbase facility. It’s fascinating to hear about the types of people who have dedicated their lives to following the company’s progress.
But as well as bringing Musk’s followers to the area, Space X’s expansion has had a deeper impact on the surrounding area.
An explosion in the number of launches planned from the site could be impacting protected environments. And, the locals that spent their whole life in the region are struggling to deal with the changes afoot.
Grush explains that the nearby Boca Chica Village “felt like this dark cloud” and something that shouldn’t be discussed when talking to Space X fans. There, locals spoke of the “nightmare” of selling their properties to Musk’s company.
Residents said that the “company seemed to get away with everything” as it began testing rockets at Starbase. Locals would get little to no warning ahead of some launches, before the company finally began trying to buy people out.
Despite a unified front against the sale, residents soon began flowing out of the village to be replaced by workers. The Verge reports:
“Boca Chica Village now looks very different than it once did. The mostly brown and beige brick homes have been given makeovers, 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’s at Starbase to oversee operations.”
The whole piece shows the fascinating juxtaposition with people searching for meaning through Musk’s endeavors, and the individuals loosing their sense of place as Space X expands.
I highly recommend heading across to The Verge to read the piece in its entirety, you can do that right here.