Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX, have been testing rockets from a launch site in Texas in an effort to eventually take humans to Mars. The launch site is next to a neighborhood east of Brownsville called Boca Chica, a tiny beach and fishing village that has been transformed by the rocket company.
Musk’s company picked the spot to develop, test, and maybe someday launch its new spaceship, called “Starship.” Starship is designed to fly cargo and crew to the moon and even Mars.
Maria Pointer thought the village, with one main street and fewer than two dozen residents, would be perfect for retirement. Then SpaceX moved in, something that, during launches, has Pointer excited.
“When you’re juicing your oranges and you’re looking out at a spaceship,” Pointer said. “I would be talking to my mom going, ‘Can you believe this?'”
The launch pad is about a mile and a half down the road, but test days are the real game-changer. Beaches close. The neighborhood’s main access road closes. And deputies hand out warnings to residents.
“There is risk that a malfunction will create an over-pressure event that can break windows,” the notices read.
Pointer boarded up her house. She said it’s a love/hate relationship with SpaceX.
“Flip of the coin,” Pointer said. “Heads is… look what we’ve got coming for the future. And then on the back side, it’s like, where the hell do I go now? I mean, I can’t stay here forever.”
No question the Boca Chica has changed. Homeowner Cheryl Stevens said she feels like the company has encroached on the neighborhood.
“They’re behaving as if this is Cape Canaveral. And it’s not,” Stevens said. “It’s not a military base. It’s just a regular neighborhood, and a public beach, and a state highway. And suddenly, because they’re here, stop the presses. Everything has to change for SpaceX.”
Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. is the top elected official in Cameron County, one of the poorest in Texas. SpaceX could bring in hundreds of new jobs and tens of millions of dollars.
“I can certainly appreciate their frustrations, but I gotta look at the big picture,” Trevino said. “I think that’s a big, big win, potential win for us. I feel bad for those people, but hopefully they’ll understand and appreciate at the end of the day this was beneficial for the entire area.”
Pointer is thrilled by the launches, but when she thinks about the future of space here, she worries about her own.
“It’s bittersweet,” Pointer said, lamenting that she’ll eventually have to leave what was supposed to be her forever home.
“When do I have to move?” Pointer said, when asked what she would say to Musk. “That’s what I would ask him, ‘When do I have to move?'”
In the last few days, Pointer and several other homeowners have received letters from SpaceX offering to buy their homes at three times a fair market value. SpaceX says the offer is non-negotiable and expires in two weeks. Sellers would get to come back for VIP launch viewing.
“When SpaceX first identified Cameron County as a potential spaceport location, we did not anticipate that local residents would experience significant disruption from our presence,” the company wrote in the letter obtained by CBS News.
A SpaceX spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News: “We are entering a new and exciting era in space exploration and Texas is playing an increasingly important role in our efforts to help make humanity multi-planetary. As we develop Starship—the world’s most advanced launch system ever—we are listening and responding to our neighbors’ concerns and are striving to minimize disruptions as much as possible. We are working closely with Cameron County to facilitate public safety and provide regular road and beach closure updates to the public through a telephone hotline and on Cameron County’s website.”
Musk says he’ll visit Boca Chica next weekend to outline his company’s future there.