TEXAS –Deep in the heart of Texas, the stars at night are “big and bright,” and the latest of the billionaire businessmen blasting off to space is taking note.
“I’m pretty sure the first word that was spoken in space was ‘Houston’ … Texas is full of engineers, is full of raw talent — people that understand what it’s like to work on a project that has a big goal, that is a risky goal,” Dr. Casey Williams, Science Research Lead for the University of Kansas and former Texas Tech graduate student, said.
Next week, on Tuesday, July 20, Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin New Shepard Spacecraft will rocket out of the atmosphere from the tiny town of Van Horn in West Texas, located about four hours southwest of Lubbock. To Williams and Texas Tech physics and astronomy professor Dr. Thomas Maccarone, the rural region makes the perfect launching pad.
“Land is cheap, it’s sunny there most of the time, so you don’t have to worry about clouds cancelling your flights as often,” Maccarone said.
The wide open space in the desert also means less chance of debris crashing down and hitting someone if something goes wrong.
But what’s also attracting these tycoons turned aspiring astronauts to Texas is the state’s long legacy of looking to the stars and supporting space exploration.
“[Texas has] the center of engineering excellence for the whole planet … What we’re thinking of [in the billionaire space race] is not just what’s happening right now but what it will allow us to do,” John K. Strickland, board member and assistant treasurer for the National Space Society, said.
The experts said they are eager to watch what happens next week.
“I think it’s quite exciting that we’re seeing a new generation of people going to space. When I was a kid, that was when they first started doing space shuttle launches, and that was one of the things that got me excited about science at first,” Maccarone said.
Maccarone added he hopes the launch will bring more students into the Texas Tech physics and astronomy program.
Both Maccarone and Williams emphasized this launch and future ones will create more jobs and take Texas one step closer to space tourism, leading to an economic boom around the state, especially in rural regions hammered by the pandemic.
“That is the human drive, and I think that Texas is going to be primed to be at the forefront of that,” Williams said.