The Federal Aviation Administration called the first of two virtual public hearings on Monday evening to solicit public comment on SpaceX’s plan to launch its Starship rocket from south Texas.
The hearing, which lasted nearly four hours, sparked both passionate support for SpaceX’s plans to expand its Starbase facility as well as strong opposition. Limited to comments of three minutes or less, nearly five dozen people spoke at the Zoom hearing.
According to my informal tally, there were 39 comments in favor of the project and 18 against. Comments in favor of SpaceX were more likely to come from out of state, from people generally grateful for the company’s efforts to make humanity a “multiplanetary species.” However, there were also a lot of local supporters.
Most of those who spoke out against the project said they lived near Brownsville or in the state of Texas. They cited a mix of environmental concerns, including destruction of wildlife habitat, as well as impacts on the South Texas community, such as gentrification.
Several SpaceX supporters said they grew up near Cape Canaveral, Florida, or other launch sites around the planet and saw no environmental degradation nearby. Rohan Joseph, who identified himself as an aerospace engineer, “longtime environmentalist” and bird watcher, cited the protection of sea turtles at launch sites in India as an example of the positive effects of a sea turtle. launch on an area.
He also wondered why SpaceX seemed to be getting so much attention for its launch site when there was an old oil drilling site nearby, or, if the environment was so pristine, why the nearby island of South Padre had been authorized to be built. “If SpaceX were an oil exploration company, no questions would be asked,” Joseph said.
A number of supporters also cited the project’s ability to inspire a new generation of Texans. Gail Afar, a registered nurse in Texas, works with children in schools and she said their eyes light up when the subject of SpaceX is brought up.
Austin Barnard, who said he has lived in Brownsville his entire life, remembers growing up in South Texas with no hope for the future. “The community is now embracing the idea that there is a new dawn for humanity,” Barnard said. “I find it impressive and magnificent. “
Brownsville City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa noted that prior to SpaceX’s decision to move to South Texas in 2013, the region was “the poorest community in the United States.” By coming to the region, she said, SpaceX has changed everything from the perception of the region to its economic outlook. The company now employs more than 2,000 people locally, she said.