Roswell, New Mexico Deserves a Chance: Why SpaceX worked and Virgin Galactic didn’t

But while SpaceX was doing well and was accelerating their plans, Virgin Galactic looks to never recover from a few of the tragedies they had been mired with.  And that is the warning of what happens when government gets involved in your business, they typically destroy a process with too much regulation and bureaucracy with pinheads getting in the way, before killing a project with a pre-mature death.  Richard Branson had chosen wrong to make friends with all these progressive politicians over they years, so he was stuck playing by the kind of dumb rules they always come up with, whereas Elon Musk had kept a healthy distance from the politicians and his approach to space allowed him to aggressively develop his vision.  With Virgin Galactic, people were required to pilot the experimental craft, and when things go wrong with people, government feels it must stick its nose in all our lives to protect them.  So the lesson couldn’t be more obvious.   Emerging into space would have to involve robots and automation.  The grand old days of adventure and flying by the seat of our pants weren’t going to work with modern government hell bent on micromanagement.  And the results had played themselves out on the deserts of the American Southwest.

Roswell really would be the best place for the tourist access point to space.  Boca Chica, Texas for most people is still a long way south, which is where SpaceX is.  As the Hyperloop tech comes online, I can’t think of a better first application.  Elon Musk is already planning to build his own city there, so Roswell is the best location to really get people moving around in a part of the country that currently has almost no economic development.  And it has a lot of land to test out new vehicle prototypes.  Of course, there is a lot of planning and corporation that would have to take place first and lots of people with billions of dollars of investment would have to be attracted to the idea.  Roswell is already making the transition from a town of conspiracy to an open embrace to the kind of alien tech that will take the human race to the next level, whether we inherited it from some other space immigrant, or whether we have built the tech ourselves.  The thrill of adventure is what space needs to be igniting and for the benefit of aerospace, it would be great to unite those efforts in some cohesive way.

For every rocket that goes into space, for every yearning for a new thing to go there, there needs to be literally hundreds of millions of hours of people thinking about space, such as in entertainment culture, conventions, science workshops, something like what they have been trying to do in Roswell for a long time, make it the home base for open contemplation about anything strange and out there, and to have a little scientific fun with it.  That is how an embrace of new tech is best sold, when people are already out on the edge a bit anyway.  The plans for the spaceport convention center that I saw planned for Roswell is likely a $500 million investment, and by itself it wouldn’t make much sense.  But to connect it with hyperloops to Elon Musk’s SpaceX facilities in Texas then to Spaceport over in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico would be groundbreaking.  Yet I was disappointed that Virgin Galactic just wasn’t making the cut.  Their approach to their part of it was just too far behind and likely was never going to get there due to the way they played the game.  I still think the Roswell project is worth doing, as a way to bridge all these emerging technologies into a single space story.  It’s a part of the world where political alignment would be achievable for something that involves multiple states and a lot of land.  But there needs to be more of a hook than just SpaceX, and right now, there isn’t anybody.

Space tourism would have been perfect about 4 or 5 years ago.  People need to get into space and come back to talk about it.  Virgin Galactic could have done such great things, but their rigid concept just involves too many real people and one mistake by any of them and the whole thing is mired down in bureaucratic investigations.  Elon Musk was smart, he developed automation so when there is a mistake, a rocket blows up and nobody really cares.  It’s a loss of money for him, but so long as lives aren’t lost, the government pinheads could care less what happens.  So that has kept SpaceX moving while Virgin Galactic has just fizzled out.  It’s a shame took, because the Spaceport in New Mexico was built to accommodate, but nobody delivered, and all that stuff is now just sitting around looking to be part of a greater story.  I went to New Mexico hoping to connect some of the pieces, at least at an imaginative investment end.  But without Virgin Galactic up and running, that leaves only SpaceX out there doing anything really exciting.  By the time half a billion dollars is raised to make some of these projects possible Virgin Galactic will likely be gone from anybody’s plans and that New Mexico Spaceport will continue to whither away into dust from a lack of use. 

For me the biggest surprise was in Roswell itself.  That is a town that wants to live.  It wants to be part of a bigger story.  Its hungry for a chance.  The problem for them is that they are literally in the middle of nowhere.  That’s great for a space industry, but not great for attracting investments.  It’s probably a little early to be thinking about these kinds of things but when it comes to new, groundbreaking technology, a few decades of early thought is appropriate on these matters, and if any town deserves a crack at the bat, its certainly Roswell, New Mexico. 

Cliffhanger the Overmanwarrior

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