Residents of Elon Musk’s “space city” in southeastern Texas blasted the The SpaceX CEO’s treatment of them as he transformed their quiet beach town into his grand Starbase vision, a report said.
Boca Chica, was a small, seaside village at the mouth of the Rio Grande on the Mexican border with just a few streets before SpaceX moved in, promising to turn the town into a terrestrial terminus for space travelers.
The company broke ground on its launch facility in 2014 and started testing rockets there in 2019. As work on the project progressed, SpaceX gradually bought up most of Boca Chica’s three dozen homes, though a few homeowners held out, according to reports.
“Creating the city of Starbase, Texas,” Musk tweeted in March 2021.. “From thence to Mars. And hence, the stars.” Starbase, he added, “would encompass an “area much larger than Boca Chica.”
“It was a little neighborhood and Elon Musk came and took it over,” Mary Helen Flores, a teacher from nearby Brownsville, told The Sunday Times. “He renamed it Starbase without asking anyone. He just announced it on Twitter.”
Maria Pointer, who used to live in “the last house in Texas” before the border, told the paper that her home is now being used by SpaceX to store medical supplies.
She could still point out her old home, as it stands juxtaposed to Starbase’s massive rocket assembly towers.
In 2012, Musk received bids from states and territories who wanted to host a new SpaceX base, with Florida and Puerto Rico being the two leading candidates before Musk settled on Boca Chica after meeting with Texas officials, according to The Sunday Times.
“He picked Texas because it’s a dirty red state where no one’s going to care what he does in a poor border town,” Flores told the paper.
Flores said she “knew when I saw them putting the launchpad right behind the dune line that it was going to be a disaster for our beach.”
“He has destroyed a pristine paradise in the name of saving animals? Come on,” she said, dismissing the world’s richest man as “just a delusional billionaire.”
“They are destroying an ecosystem that has been there for hundreds of years,” Flores added.
She said she’s seen several fires and “a lot of sea turtle deaths,” following repeated launches and multiple explosions at the site.
Earlier this month, SpaceX fired up 31 of 33 heavy booster engines on the world’s largest rocket ever built at Starbase.
Musk, whose plans to expand Starbase have reportedly been put on hold, has defended the site as necessary for the survival of humankind.
“Something could go wrong on Earth,” he said at an event on the Starbase launchpad last year, according to The Sunday Times.
“We are life’s guardians,” he said. “The creatures that we love, they can’t build spaceships but we can bring them with us.”
In March 2021, Musk claimed that Starbase’s population will “grow by several thousand people over the next year or two” as the company — which is headquartered in Hawthorne, California — expands its workforce.
To sweeten the deal for both prospective residents and local officials, Musk pledged to donate $20 million to schools in Cameron County, which is home to the Boca Chica.
He also said he’d give $10 million toward “downtown revitalization” in Brownsville, where about 29 percent of the population lives in poverty.