Ask my wife where she grew up and she’ll say, “the Air Force.” Her father was a fighter pilot, so she grew up on bases all over Western Europe, with the only exception being a two-year stint during middle school at the Air Force Academy here in Colorado Springs. As you can imagine, it was a noisy life, with jets coming and going at all hours.
“The sound of freedom” is what Air Force families call all the noise. According to my wife, they said it every time a jet buzzed overhead — so they said it about as often as a Vox.com writer says, “Well, actually.”
Now imagine that instead of an Air Force base, you live right next door to a rapidly growing spaceport. That’s the position a small southern Texas neighborhood finds itself in, as Elon Musk’s SpaceX builds out a private spaceport for developing its Mars-bound Starship rocket.
If you haven’t seen it, Starship looks like something off the cover of an old pulp sci-fi mag from the 1930s. It’s so very Buck Rogers that I might have actually squeed the first time I saw it, and I’m not exactly a squee kind of guy. But the point isn’t how it looks. The point is, anything big enough to ferry a big crew to the Moon or even to Mars, is going to make a lot of noise.
The elderly residents of tiny Boca Chica Village aren’t exactly happy about the big changes (and big noises) coming to their once-sleepy neighborhood, and SpaceX is worried about possible safety risks to the locals. The problem came to a head earlier this year, when SpaceX fired up the Starhopper testbed platform, which accidentally started a small brushfire. Business Insider got hold of a recent letter Musk sent to Boca Chica residents, offering to buy out their properties at three times the appraised values. Yet several residents say they might not take the bait.
There’s even a juicy sweetener for any space nuts in the neighborhood. The offer says:
SpaceX recognizes that your close proximity to its operations has offered a unique opportunity to experience at close-hand the development of what will be the world’s most advanced rocket. In appreciation of your support, we will offer all residents of the Village who accept the purchase offer the opportunity to continue their connection with the development of Starship by extending an invitation to attend future private VIP launch viewing events that are unavailable to the public.
If anyone reading this lives in Boca Chica, and is thinking of taking the money… please let me know, and invite me as your VIP plus-one. I’ll pay my own travel expenses, buy the drinks, and grill the steaks.
The offer went out a few days ago and is good for only two weeks, ending on September 26. That means Boca Chica residents have just six days left to decide whether to take triple the independently appraised value for their homes — cash! — or learn to live with the chest-rattling sound of interplanetary rocket engines. Not to mention the slight-but-real risk of small brush fires or large explosions.
Besides, cashing out of a retirement village at triple value? That’s what I call the sound of freedom.