BROWNSVILLE, September 23 - Business magnate, inventor, and investor Elon Musk said Monday that the first person traveling to another planet could depart from Boca Chica beach near Brownsville.
Musk spoke about establishing a presence on Mars at a groundbreaking ceremony for his company’s planned spacecraft launch facility and spaceport. SpaceX is expected to launch 12 commercial rockets year. The project is expected to create 300 jobs and a roughly $100 million capital investment in the region, in the short term.
“The long term goal is to create the technology necessary to take humanity beyond earth, to take humanity to Mars and establish a base on Mars. It could very well be that the first person that departs for another planet could depart from this location. So, super excited and can't wait to start building this project,” Musk said.
Musk said he appreciated the leadership of Governor Rick Perry, who was with him at the groundbreaking ceremony, and numerous other federal, state and local leaders who have “helped make it possible for SpaceX to build the world’s first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions.” Musk said that with the groundbreaking, “we will begin an investment in South Texas that will create hundreds of jobs and over time contribute hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy.”
Musk said there needs to be an orbital spaceport, just as there is for commercial air traffic. “It is a similar thing to aircraft in that sense. We looked all through the country and looked at all the possibilities and I am really happy to say that we thought that this was the best place to put it,” Musk said, to loud applause.
“This is just the initial groundbreaking. It is going to take several years to build out a spaceport because this is going to be quite a significant building endeavor,” Musk said. "In the three- to four-year time frame we expect to spend in the order of about $100 million dollars. But in the long term, if you go out, say, 10-20 years, it is probably in the several hundred million dollar range because we are going to keep expanding the facility.”
Musk then discussed the multiplier effect. “There will be other companies that also locate here to support SpaceX because you end up having an eco-system of companies. Once you have got the anchor tenant down other companies move in to support the anchor tenant - in this case the launch of commercial satellites,” he said.
In his remarks, Gov. Perry said SpaceX’s announcement “represents a huge step forward for our state and continues our nation’s proud legacy of scientific advancement.” He said it builds upon Texas’ pioneer heritage, “our tradition of thinking bigger, dreaming bolder, and daring to do the impossible.” Perry said SpaceX is latest in “a long line of forward-thinking companies that have made Texas home. I couldn’t be prouder to help break ground on this revolutionary new facility.”
Perry announced that in collaboration with the UT System, his Texas Emerging Technology Fund would be making an investment of $9 million to create” a powerful research and technology commercialization partnership that will create limitless possibilities for South Texas.” The project is being called STARGATE and will encompass a radio frequency technology park located adjacent to the SpaceX launch site command center. When not being used for launches, SpaceX facilities will be used by student and faculty researchers at STARGATE for training, scientific research and technology development.
“There is a sign behind me that says the pavement ends in 1,000 feet. But, the future of South Texas takes off right behind me and that is what today is really all about,” Perry said. “When you think about this project and what it means for the State of Texas and for the nation, and frankly for the world, then we start to see just how important Texas and the Rio Grande Valley is in that makeup.”
Perry said the space exploration that will occur in South Texas will build upon the pioneer spirit of the Lone Star State. “You (Congressman Vela) mentioned this was the frontier at one time. It is the frontier again. The pioneer heritage of this state and our tradition of thinking bigger, dreaming bolder, daring to do the impossible… Elon, the impossible, is, after all, just something a Texan hadn't tried to do yet. That is how we define impossible.”
Referring to the new UT-Rio Grande Valley and its four-year medical school and acknowledging the work legislative work of people like state Sen. Eddie Lucio and state Rep. René Oliveira (who were in the audience) Perry said the recent commitment made by the State of Texas to the Valley region was “un-paralleled.”
Perry said that when one adds up the funds that SpaceX, the University of Texas System and the Greater Brownsville Innovation Corporation have made, “ than $23 million will go this project and be part of the soon to be UT-Rio Grande Valley.”
Perry also praised Musk. “Elon, what you have done with your decision, and we thank you greatly... we thank you for having the vision to see that this is where you needed to be, you wanted to be... this is just another one of those signals to the rest of the world that this is a state that is making a difference and making a difference in a powerful way,” he said.
Perry added that there is, somewhere in the Valley, “a young student in the sixth grade, in an elementary school who never in his or her life thought that they would be part of the space program but because of the vision of these men and women in this audience, they have the potential not just to change their lives but to change the world that they live in.”
Congressman Filemon Vela also spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. He acknowledged he and others in the Valley could never have dreamed of the region being part of space exploration.
“I personally want to thank Elon Musk for the tremendous potential that you saw in our region and your great vision in all things of science. What was once the furthest outpost of the old frontier of the west will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Today, thanks to the efforts of all of you who are here and the community that we represent, South Texas will be the new frontier of space and science,” Vela said.
Vela also paid tribute to Perry. “Your legacy for South Texas will never be forgotten. What you and the state Legislature have done, along with our municipal and county counterparts to bring a newly merged university to South Texas and a new medical school to South Texas is something that you will always be remembered for. I thank you for that,” Vela said.
Steve Taylor and Mario Muñoz contributed to this story.
Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series on SpaceX this week.