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In-Depth: Texas and the New Race for Space

What's behind all the roaring and shaking in McGregor these days?
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Posted at 7:27 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 20:27:08-05

MCGREGOR, TX —
IN THE BEGINNING:

Texas has always been big in the space program, but it’s getting bigger.

almost every company that takes off into that “wild blue yonder” has a presence here and many,

including SpaceX in Central Texas, will expand their footprint.

Space, the final frontier…it’s what brought Hefzi-Ba Ramirez to hear a NASA scientist speak at TSTC.

"I am actually planning to use my avionics degree, my associate’s degree to go into the Air Force," she said.

After World War Two’s win, America and it’s allies took a victory lap… while behind the Iron Curtain the biggest axis power of them all, the Soviet Union, saw its future in the stars.

The Soviets surprised the world with the first man-made satellite. There wasn’t much to it, just a radio beeper inside a ball with antennas, but everyone on earth, it seemed, heard those beeps, and to some, they sounded like a warning. The Soviets then followed with a dog in space… and finally Yuri Gagarin makes one small pass around the earth becoming the first man in space.

"American Democracy competing with the Soviet Union with communism in there if you look at the first years in space it looks like the soviets are in the forefront of technology and success," said NASA Historian Brian Odom.

So President Kennedy doubles down on the space program, and he places his bet in a Texas town that would later become synonymous with space travel.

"in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three," said John F. Kennedy.

At Houston’s Rice University, Kennedy challenges the U.S. to put a man on the moon by end of the decade.

For years, the military had charge of whatever space program America had. The challenge to the moon would put that work into a civilian agency.. one created during the years of Dwight Eisenhower, a wartime general who envisioned the exploration of space as a peaceful venture.

"President Kennedy has a huge question. He's hot that interested in space but he understands the propaganda value and knows how those discoveries will change our lives," said Odom.

President Kennedy outlined the nation’s space program, saying the concept of a free nation must extend out into space and anywhere else a free people might

benefit. "For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond," he said.

The enthusiasm Jack Kennedy created for space still endures today, especially in the heart of youngTexans like Ramirez . "I wanna be an astronaut," she said.

TEXAS MAKES ITS MOVE

In the beginning of the space program, Texas was a bystander.. yet our leaders at the time saw opportunity, not only to get Texas moving into the future, but also putting Texas on the world stage.

When NASA Comes to TSTC…. Students turn out by the hundreds…. students, many of whom say, they’ve dreamed of the stars all their lives.

As president Kennedy arrived in Texas for a Rice University speech on September 12th 1962, hat he says changes America and Texas, forever. In fact, it would establish Texas as an important part, perhaps THE most important part of the emerging national space program.

"We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people," said President Kennedy.

Because the US had failen behind as the then Soviet Union, launched the first Satellite, the first man, the woman and even the first dog into space.

At the same time the US had very public failures, and Kennedy pointed out, the Soviets surely did too.

"We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public. To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead." he said.

And we did as NASA moves it operation center to Texas. Originally designed for Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center, it would come to Houston’s swampy Clear Lake area where Rice had donated land and politicians had urged the move.

"They definitely wanted something that had mild weather. They wanted an Air Force base nearby. So we had Ellington Air Force base that was close by we had a mild climate which they wanted. They also wanted an area where there was a lot of cultural activities for their employees. So that was a big draw for NASA. They wanted local universities nearby because of course, they were going to have these engineers and scientists that needed potentially more training and they wanted to draw also from that workforce that we had here in Houston as well," said Jennifer Ross-Nazzal, Historian at NASA's, Johnson Space Center.

Houston had everything… plus some very important politicians, steering the exploration of the stars, to the lone star state. Brazos Valley, (then Houston) Congressman Albert Thomas became the driving force behind NASA’s arrival in Houston.

"I think really, Albert Thomas deserves most of the credit for bringing NASA down here. When they were building that center up in Maryland, the Goddard Space Flight Center, he actually had wanted NASA to build a center here. And he told the administrator at the time that he wasn't going to give them a red cent if they didn't move the facility," said Ross-Nazzal.

Houston would later become synonymous with space travel as it changed the way people looked at Texas forever.

"...and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold.," said President Kennedy at his now-famous speech at Rice University.

And he couldn’t have picked a better place than Texas, a place known for not just its boldness, but it’s intelligence and its hard-working people.

Instructors at Waco's TSTC believe they have more than a few future rocket scientists here, Including everyday Texans like Hefzi-Ba Ramirez who plans to take to the skies but a little closer to home, telling us she plans to use her avionics degree in the Air Force, and as she, NASA and others, fly off into that wild blue Yonder, they’ll have the backing of an army of Texans who made it possible for their trip.

HOUSTON... WE HAVE NO PROBLEM....

Whether you live in McGregor.... or Manor you may have noticed increased activity when it comes to the nations space program.

And most of that action happened right here in Texas. Houston became synonymous with space travel in the Apollo Program.... could we strengthen our brand in the privatization of space?

As President John F. Kennedy prepared to roll out the nation's space program, he hitched his star, to the Lone Star State, as a symbol of progress.

"This city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward--and so will space," said John F. Kennedy, the 35th U.S. President.

President Kennedy sealed the deal, making Houston the center of manned space flight for NASA, as Texas had already begun to emerge as a high-tech hub.

In the years that followed, we would hear the word "Houston" sprinkled thorough any conversation between astronauts and mission control.

And with each mission, NASA learned more about, not only space, it learned about earth itself....as Mr. Kennedy predicted.

"Science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school," he said.

You might say the space program outdid itself, exceeding even the president's crystal ball.

Consider these products we use every day, which came straight from the Space program:

The technology that puts cameras into cell phones, Memory Foam, Scratch-resistant sunglasses, the Dustbuster, GPS, and LED lighting,

NASA Historian Brian Odom says, They all got their earliest uses, in the early days of the space program, which centered on Texas.

"Going to the moon was an incredibly important thing, right? Because you're you're looking at how do we... move ourselves off of Earth and out into other places... and that's what we're doing from the Mercury program, Gemini and Apollo, up to about Apollo 14, but Apollo 15 is a little different. You really are diving into the geology of the moon. You're really beginning with a Lunar Roving Vehicle. You can really expand your science out really do some research, right? So you got Apollo 1516 and 17. After 17 you do come back in and you say okay, where do we go from here?" he said.

The obvious choice at the time...Mars. but with the Vietnam War still going, and some troubling economic trends at home, President Richard Nixon decides the needs at home are greater than the needs of outer space.

NASA stays closer to home...

" Skylab launching America's first station in space, sending three crews to do incredibly important research and learning about low Earth orbit. And the space shuttle will go on launch in April 1981. And we'll have this incredibly important suite of missions where we learn about low Earth orbit we learn about access to low Earth orbit, building a space station, launching the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X Ray Observatory, and then servicing those missions," said Odom.

All run, from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Texas has a foothold in the door.

"What was once the furthest outpost of the old west, Houston will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space," said President John F. Kennedy.

But can it maintain that foothold in the face of a private enterprise free-for-all over space?

TO BOLDLY GO...

NASA ran the American space program as a solo act for the first 40 or so years of its existence. Now you can count more than a handful of successful companies all making money, or about to... off of space,

Most have major operations in Texas, but can Texas keep its hold on these companies?

TV's Captain Kirk explains the thin band of air around the earth, minutes after he steps off a Blue Origin capsule.

This time his beaming face has nothing to do with "Scotty", as actor William Shatner connects in a way he never expected, to the character he's played off and on, for a lifetime.

He returned from his first-ever trip into space, speaking almost in religious terms.

"Everybody in the world needs to see this....." he says in an almost reverent way.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, may not run the nation's top private space company, but he sure knows how to get attention, having the actor whose 4 year mission in television space still plays in re-runs today.

Where's NASA in all this? The whole plan at Blue Origin, comes directly from NASA research, as the space agency started handing off little pieces of the space program to private companies, years ago.

"At what point does does NASA leave off and private can private enterprise takeover? Where's that? Where's that sweet spot? That's a great point. And I think, you know, it depends on exactly what you're looking at, right? Because if you're looking at something from the aeronautics portfolio, you know, the X vehicles, you're learning a lot of important things there. And it still is that r&d, right you're the government can invest money in solving questions. Private industry, for the most part can't do it's not in its you know, there's no market maybe yet for that for that ability. But, you know, NASA the government can can inject money into the into a problem, but some r&d behind it and then get that to the private industry as much as as quickly as it can," said NASA Historian Brian Odom.

And from a wide field at first, three private companies have become the most recognizable names in the game.

Of those... two located major operations in Texas.

Sir Richard Branson located in New Mexico, what you might call, "Texas lite".

Just as the railroad barons Cornelius Vanderbilt, James hill, Collis Huntington shaped modern travel. The space barons, Elon musk, Jeff bezos and Richard Branson almost through sheer force of will, aim for the stars, shaping our future travel.

Bezos has a base in West Texas out near El Paso, in Van Horn where he's spent untold millions on building the Blue Origin launch site, offices and necessary infrastructure for his 275 Employees and 50 contractors.

Outside of Texas, Blue Origin has its headquarters in Kent, Washington, 20 minutes south of Seattle. ... Cape Canaveral, FL. Home to its New Glenn manufacturing, orbital launch and support facilities. . other operations you'll find in Arlington, VA. ...Huntsville, AL. .. and Los Angeles.

Blue Origin's capsule takes off from the Van Horn site, the reusable main rocket lands here, and the capsule tumbles to earth, nearby.

Richard Branson and Burt Rutan joined forces to get Virgin Galactic off the ground. Their company takes a different approach to space launches, believing the cheapest and easiest way to get off the ground... hitch a ride on a specially built mother ship to take you to the edge of the atmosphere where you unlink, hit the afterburners and sail off into the darkness.

Even though Virign had a successful first flight, issues with the stability of the space plane forced virgin to push back the start of regular service sending its stock price in for a hard landing.

uncertainty about Virgin's future also raises questions about it's home base, Spaceport America. Virgin is the biggest tenant at the facility just outside Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Managers though say with other, new tenants moving in, Virgin's success becomes less important to Spaceport's survival.

Though privatization of the space program got off to a slow start by many accounts, Today, NASA refers with pride, to it's private partners, and one of it's early success stories, SpaceX, charting a path laid out with government research.

" From that you can get incredibly important things like the you know, the ability of SpaceX to get people to the International Space Station to kind of dominate transportation paradigm in low Earth orbit," said Odom.

"This experience is something unbelievable," said Shatner.

Because if TV's Captain Kirk has it right, we may all get to ride a rocket into space in the years ahead.

"What you have given me is the most profound experience i can imagine," Shatner told Jeff Bezos.

"I hope I never recover from this," he said.

SPACE WHO?

Space X moved in near McGregor about 20 years ago.

You might say McGregor's been booming for a long time.... most recently with SpaceX.

"They originally started off probably a couple 100 acres and now they occupied 4000 acres of our industrial park. What started as a couple of employees. Now they're in probably close to 1000 and it's still expanding," said Mc Grgor Mayor jim Hering.

What we now know as McGregor's SpaceX facility, began as a world war two era explosives factory called the "Bluebonnet Plant".

Phillips Petroleum moved in for a while with a test lab for different types of fuel.

Rockets arrived, when a small rocket company called Rocketdyne moved in to learn the secrets of the German V-2 rocket and put them to "American Use".

During that time, Rocketdyne's research helped lead to the creation of the v Saturn 5 rocket which sent men to the moon.

the turn of the century brought SpaceX here, and the site grew along with the company.

""This is the horizontal test stand. This is the very first place we fired a rocket was right here" said SpaceX Co-Founder Tom Mueller, in a SpaceX-prepared video.

Rocket genius Mueller designed, built and tested rockets from here for years, retiring in 2020.

His pre-produced tour of SpaceX McGregor shows us some of the highlights.

"The block house is an underground bunker control engine testing like the Merlin booster engine, we're setting up a test of the the daily duty cycle Falcon nine," Muller says.

The engine tests at McGregor roar loudly and shake the ground for miles... something neighbors know all too well by now.

Space X actually has three rocket testing stands, including it familiar-looking tall gantry.

When you hear how powerful these engines are made, all the shaking and roaring seems to make sense.

'" The Falcon nine first stage up here that we're getting ready to do the sort of historical the first folder burn up all nine engines so there's nine engines running 95,000 pounds each. That's a total of 860,000 pounds for about 170 seconds" says Mueller.

And the engines generate lots of heat.

"Right in there where that black type comes down and it goes into the exchangers because the exhaust of course coming out of that thruster is about 3000 degrees. " Mueller adds.

McGregor also tests the Space X capsules.

"Dragon capsule just started into qualification. This is the first fully flight Dragon capsule we built" Mueller says.

And they've already proved useful as movers of people and cargo.

Why all the testing? to see how much effort it takes to get man in space, and keep him there as long as he needs.

How much is that?

"Fully loaded this tank 535,000 pounds are compelling. Visibly those nine engines will consume that 535,000 pounds and burn it in 170 seconds," Mueller explains.

In a fraction of the time it takes to boil an egg, we can rocket to the stars... thanks to the history and legacy of this old bomb factotry on the outskirts of McGregor.

The mayor says you can expect to see Space X growing right along with Texas.

"Well, I think you can look up just what SpaceX is doing about themselves and you can see what a major component it is of our state economy, with SpaceX and Elon Musk driving everything they're doing and you can look down as far south Texas and Boca Chica now where they are setting the rockets off literally putting them into orbit from there he's got a huge footprint now in Austin," said Hering.

NIMBY

But lately, some people have shared concerns about the amount of rocket testing at Space X and a big increase in the number and intensity of the tests.

The noise keeps coming from SpaceX at a more requent pace these days and that's got neighbors and government leaders concerned.

Many would like the help of a higher authority to do something about the increased noise, but while airport neighbors can lean on the Federal Aviation Administration for help with noise, no federal authority has jurisdiction, when it conmes to rockets neighbors can only rely on local authotities.

Georgette and David Waggoner have the perfect house on the perfect street, in perfect little Texas town.... that is... until the ground shakes as a giant roar gets louder.

If you've ever lived near an airport... imagine what life may look like, or sound like, living near a spaceport of the future.

Waggoners don't have to imagine the future.

They're living it today, as neighbors of the Space X Rocket testing facility.

"What's it like living next to the rocket facility? Well, you get used to it. It's interesting." they said.

It also gets un-nerving say other neighbors who talk of where the latest SpaceX rocket test sits on the earthquake richter scale.

"The noise itself, I mean I grew up next to a b-52 base so I'm used to noise... But when they do a full-blown test, test or something and it's 0 to 100, it shakes the house off the foundation and stuff, I mean, it literally shakes the whole house": said David Waggoner.

"And we have physical damage as a result. Cracked Ceilings, Alabaster doves that have fallen off the shelves.... and pictures just falling," said the Waggoners.

...Alabaster doves that for years, belonged to to Georgette's recently dearly departed mother.

Even with an recently accelerated testing schedule at SpaceX, the Waggoners say they generally support the work there and its growing importance.

Arnie Derrickson admits the plant can get noisy, but he calls the accompanying light show, worth it.

"I used to live across from a railroad track. THAT was annoying. This is nothing. It's really nice a night when that thing comes up it is a sight to see," said the Oglesby resident.

Pretty perhaps, but scientists have proven even too much of a good thing can cause harm.

It's why neighbors of the Burbank, Califnornia airport complained and even sued, about the noise from commercial planes from the time the airport opened over 40 years ago... right up until today

It's why the both Burbank AND the FAA keep tabs on the issue and report on it with regularity.

It's also why, people on flights in and out of Burbank, often feel like astronauts as their planes take off, and immediately go into a steep climb, into space.

and It's also why, when landing, the planes fly over the mountains and then go into a steep, some call it a "crash dive" for the runway.

Burbank says that, and other abatement projects have reduced the airports noise footprint by 95 percent.

Back in McGregor, the FAA has no jurisdiction over rockets, making noise control a local issue in the hands of McGregor's mayor.

"The problem is, it has to do with how they're testing the rockets with the vertical and horizontal with the size of those engines... look, that company moves literally at the speed of sound," said James Hering, McGregor Mayor

But not apparently when the problem IS the sound no matter what the speed.

"Maybe some of the paramaters that have been set up for protection, maybe that's been outgrown or outstripped by some of what they are testing now.

We've raised those questions with SpaceX.

We believe that they're fully aware of it and they tell us they're gonna fix 'em," said Mayor Hering who even put the promise in writing in an open letter to the people of McGregor.

He says Space X plans to build another vertical rocket gantry to help lessen the sound problem.

The most recent negotiations between SpaceX and McGregor, reportedly took place in 2016.

A KXXV report from 2019 reveals SpaceX had paid McGregor more than half a million dollars in so-called noise fines since that new deal took effect.

The city uses that money on projects it otherwise couldn't afford and to keep taxes low, in a time when property values have also begun to rocket off into the stratosphere.

Neighbors say, as they pick up from the disarray caused by the latest big SpaceX test, there HAS to be a way to bring the noise down, without bringing The Texas space program down with it.

"Well, I just wish they could put up some kind of "Sound Wall" or something because sound waves, just divert it, they could just divert it," said David Waggoner.

Could they? We may not know until or unless McGregor suggests.... or demands it.

McGREGOR, WE HAVE A PROBLEM...

Central Texas has been buzzing lately.... after the shaking stops, that is, about the increased activity at the SpaceX Rocket Testing facility in McGregor.

Neighbors say it practically shakes their homes off their foundations.

Arnie Derrickson's, home backs right up to the SpaceX rocket testing complex.

He says it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out when things don't go right.

"Every now and then they'll have a "blowout" I call it a blowout. I don 't know. I don't know anything about Space OR X but you know, you'll see a black cloud and think, "oooh that didn't go so well."

Everything hasn't exactly been coming up Roses for SpaceX, under a tight deadline to get it's new "Starship" off the round permanently and regularly.

Insiders say the all-important "Raptor" rocket engine has become a thorn to the iiiii o company, behind schedule and apparently not up to specs.

So SpaceX revved up the testing.

"You can go for a while and never hear them, and then they just start up and it's boom boom boom any where for 8 to 9 o clock at night," said Georgette Waggoner of Oglesby.

Elon Musk may like to talk about trips to Mars, but make no mistake, The main mission at spaceX centers on getting off this rock.. at a fraction of the current cost.

Things got so bad, so quickly, Musk even mentioned bankruptcy, which came as a surprise to experts.

"We already have technology that we can kind of throw away and we're up at atmosphere.

it's just very expensive the way you make it cheaper, which is to make it more commercially viable is to make it reusable and so that those are the challenges he's facing right now, how do I make these engines work in a way that I can turn them very quickly and make this profitable and he's going through all those iterations and that's I think this comments about bankruptcy aren't necessarily literal in the immediate future, or even even ever, but I think what he's he's very realistic, in a sense that he's saying this is unproven technology we're developing as we go and things could always not work out," explained University of North Texas professor, Dr. Michael Bomba, who wrote an extensive report on the space program several years ago for then Texas Governor Rick Perry.

A couple couple of Vice Presidents found out the hard way about the trial and error of the space program.

Published reports say Founder Elon Musk took control of the Raptor project as Vice President of Propulsion Will Heltsley left to seek bluer skies.

Behind Heltsley? retired Air force Colonel Lee Rosen, Vice President of Mission and Launch Operations, and Ricky Lim a senior director in mission and launch.

A handful of other long-haulers also left at the end of a stock buyback program that valued SpaceX at 560 dollars a share, for a total of 100 Million dollars, according to the Consumer News and Business Channel.

With so much at sake, Leaders in McGregor who also have a lot invested in the success of SpaceX have to walk a fine line.

"How much do you balance the needs of people versus the needs of the company? "That's a very important question. It's becoming more and more important as the past few months have gone by, I mean, we don't, as a city council we don't dodge the question, we know that is has gotten louder. We know that the disruptions have gotten greater. Nobody in the council is surprised by that, neither is our city manager and so there is, there's a very difficult balance that we have to try to maintain." said McGregor Mayor Jim Hering.

The city already imposes mutually agreed-upon penalties which between 2017 and 2019 brought in more than half a million dollars

And while the city refers to the payments as noise penalties, SpaceX prefers to call the sum. a "Community investment".

The nearby town of Oglesby has more people closer to the spaceX action than McGregor, but doesn't get a penny.

McGregor already has a bit of a problem with its fast growth. Property Values here have "skyrocketed" if you will, to some of the highest in Central Texas.

Herring has a goal as lofty as that of Musk himself. He wants to "grow" McGregor while keeping its "small town" feel.

He's not taking the Space X's problems lightly, especially when it comes to the testing and shaking.

"Does it concern me at all? For the sake of physical harm? No. For the sake of it shaking up a small country town and changing the livelihoods of people, yes," said Hering.

Musk explained his bankruptcy threat by noting the need to say on schedule with his company's satellite internet deployment and the commitment to send at least one starship into space every two weeks in the new year, and you can't do either with a faulty engine, which some observers say, has a "flatulence problem".

So these folks with a front-row seat to the Texas Space program, watch... and wait for the next time their shelves full of family moments leap to the floor as SpaceX tests another engine to the skies.

"What do you do just put the pictures back up and hope for the best? Yeah we do, and scoot 'em back a little more each time. What do you do ? They gotta be somewhere. And we knew they were here when we moved here" say the Waggoners.

The Waco Herald Tribune reported, In earlier negotiations SpaceX the city created a Rocket Motor Testing Zone in McGregor, which is an area within a mile of the center of the testing complex.

SpaceX agreed to move its testing deadline from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m., except in special cases the city must approve beforehand. It also would abide by decibel limits the city would apply up to three miles from the center of SpaceX’s territory.

McGregor established a threshold of 115 decibels, to the noise produced by a loud motorcycle or power saw, according to the Center for Hearing, Speech and Language. If SpaceX exceeds that limit, it must pay a fee of $7,500 and discuss with city officials what it will do to ensure it does not repeat the violation.

The Tribune reported City Manager Kevin Evans said the company’s tests are typically below 100 decibels and have never exceeded the 115-decibel mark.

Other regulations would impose fees up to $50,000 if SpaceX testing exceeds 125 decibels. A typical ambulance siren is at 120 decibels, according to the Center for Hearing, Speech and Language.

The restrictions on sound take into consideration the decibel level testing creates within 3 miles.

Future testing generally was restricted between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., and all tests involving a rocket engine that generates 2 million pounds of thrust must be conducted during daylight hours. Evans said SpaceX itself suggested the city adjust the late-night deadline according to Texas Public Radio.

GROWING PAINS

All the noise and shaking at the SpaceX testing facility comes as the company seeks to expand both here and down on the gulf coast.

Arnie Derrickson and his daughter calls themselves... space pioneers.

"So how do I feel about being a part of Texas' space future as a neighbor this place was great. You know, my daughter lives in Florida. As a matter of fact, you know, obviously SpaceX has things there as well. I pride here to testing ground. We're part of the future!" said the Oglesby man.

Neighbors around the SpaceX rocket testing center in McGregor grudgingly admit it. They're part of the space program too, making sacrifices somewhat smaller than Elon Musk or Tom Mueller... depending on how you look at it.

Like it or not, they all share in the success of the nation's private space program, a program heavily invested in Texas.

The two biggest players in commercial space, Spacex and Blue origin both have major operations in Texas.

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin has launch and support facilities for his mostly space tourism flights near ElPaso outside Van Horn.

SpaceX launches from Boca Chia, and tests its rockets outside Waco, in McGregor.

Over the summer CEO Elon Musk announced expansion at both.

A new manufacturing plant in Mc Gregor would produce the company's "Raptor" engines, currently having a few development issues.

Plans call for SpaceX to make 2 to 4 raptors a day, 800-1000 engines a year.

"Our community was built on rocket testing with Hercules going all the way back in world war two," said Mc Gregor Mayor Jim Hering.

Mc Gregor Welcomed SpaceX here in 2003 when it was barely more than an idea.

Since then it's become the most important private space company and an important asset to mcgregor.

"When you have a town the size of McGregor about 5-thousand people you got 1000 or at least around that maybe employed in McGregor. Granted a lot of those people don't live in McGregor but they're close-by and having that many people coming into your town on a daily basis it certainly drives a huge portion of the economy," said Hering.

SpaceX and the city expanded its lease agreement last year giving the company the option to purchase the 43-hundred acres it currently leases.

The lease includes so called "Noise fines" and other clauses the mayor says, put an extra half million dollars into the city budget to pay for community needs.

Hering says as SpaceX grows, McGregor will grow too.

"We are seeing some inquiries even right now next to SpaceX, and if they end up doing some manufacturing here which we think is gonna happen really soon, that we could probably seee some more activity on record,"said the Mc Gregor Mayor.

But Derrickson says not everybody welcomes the expansion as he does.

"A lot of people in town, in McGregor that are worried about them expanding but (SpaceX)They just go about their business," he explained.

Many don't like the possibility of McGregor losing its small town feel, but mayor says, whatever growth happens will aim to keep that atmosphere.

Arnie says Texas needs companies like SpaceX as the county looks to the stars for new opportunities.

"Do I think that Texas has a future in this space businesses? Sure. Hope so. Obviously, makes a lot of job opportunities. For people. And that's the number one thing people need right now. That just , good paying jobs if they pay from what I understand pretty good money," said Derrickson.

PUBLIC VERSUS PRIVATE

As Central Texas keeps moving and shaking thanks to increased rocket testing from SpaceX, you may wonder about other rocket testing centers.

How does the SpaceX complex in McGregor compares to the biggest and busiest rocket test site in the world?

"William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties," said John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, in his important 1962 Speech at Rice University.

President Kennedy's quote never prove more true than with America's space program. After early failures, NASA aimed to lessen its chances with rigorous testing of it's rockets , as it aimed for the moon.

Like SpaceX, in McGregor, NASA had a little trouble with the neighbors as it began its rocket testing program.

It led to the construction of this test site in Southwest Mississippi, now known as the John C. Stennis Space Center.

"Even in Marshall Space Flight Center back in the 1960s when they were testing the first stage of a Saturn five, that was okay when you had a small population but as it as it grows, you're basically you know, you're becoming a nuisance to the community, almost breaking windows and that sort of thing. And that's kind of where Stennis came from. Government not bought a bunch of his one little piece of a huge swath of property the government owns. So he has he bought buffer lands around there, right? It did. Yeah, that was one of the things they made sure they did. Right. So you move to this place where there's not a lot of people, you figure out where your core activity is going to take place, and then you build the buffer around it, and no one's gonna move into that. Buffer right we're gonna maintain that no matter what," said NASA Historian Brian Odom.

In fact, NASA moved 5 communities out of its 125-thousand acre buffer zone so the noise of its rocket testing wouldn't harm them.

Why? A noice decibel chart from Penn State University explains. It starts with our threshold of hearing and shows various regular activities and the noise they create, a noisy office? 60 Decibels.

From here we cross the threshold where prolonged exposure can cause hearing damage.

A 737 passing overhead? 90 Decibels, and a train passing nearby 100.

A rock concert 110 Decibels and and air raid siren at 50 feet 120.

That noise alone can cause immediate harm to our ears say experts.

Now... compare all that to a Saturn V rocket... now we're talking 200 Decibels.

Now let's compare those buffer zones.

NASA has 125,000 acres of land between it and its neighbors.

Currently space x employs just under 600 people at the McGregor site which covers almost 43-hundred acres. In comparison to NASA’s similar facility in Mississippi, SpaceX neighbors sit much closer to the action.

From space you can tell a lot more.

NASA's Stennis with 125-thousand acres of buffer shows as a large, thick ring around the nerve center. McGregor's SpaceX has only a thin line and neighbors surrounding it on all sides. The nearest neighbor to Space X a little over 1.3 miles away, just over 7600 feet.

The Space X rocket testing facility has many similarities to NASA's huge testing complex in Southwest Mississippi;... but it also has many more differences, especially when it comes to neighbors.

When NASA went to tests its rockets, it chose hundreds of thousands of acres of swampland along South Misississippi's Pearl River for the Stennis Space Center, which today has become a bustling center of technology.

How do you deal with the growth and still keep your mission in a program that well you can't hide it from the neighbors?

Yeah, I think still its you know, Stennis has been incredibly valuable to South Mississippi. I think there's no doubt about that. And I think a lot of these centers, that's what we see the impacts they make in the communities," said Brian Odom, NASA Historian.

Local leaders say SpaceX arrived in 'Central Texas because it found one of the few, if only, ready-made rocket testing centers created in world war two and used until the 1970's.

It doesn't have quite the buffer zone NASA has, but, it McGregor's mayor says it has similar economic potential.

"It brings jobs unlike any job in Central Texas as far as the wage scale on an average the technology that comes with the the people that come with it. Look, I think those are good things if they're managed properly. We can provide good housing for them. We have great school districts for kids to be in. We provide people who are a part of our community that are that are doers instead of takers they're givers," said Jim Hering, McGregor's Mayor.

South Mississippi has boomed since Stennis opened, as its new neighbors found balance in the drawbacks and benefits of their location.

That's a little tougher to do in McGregor but the city continues talks with SpaceX .

The Waco Tribune-Herald reported, In earlier negotiations with SpaceX the city created a Rocket Motor Testing Zone in McGregor, an area within a mile of the center of the testing complex.

SpaceX agreed to move its testing deadline from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m.. in special cases the city must approve beforehand.

SpaceX also promised to abide by decibel limits the city would establish up to three miles from the center of the SpaceX propert.

McGregor established a threshold of 115 decibels. According to a Penn State University Chart on noise, that's some where between a rock concert and an air raid siren at 50 ft.

If SpaceX exceeds that limit, it pays a fee of $7,500 and tells city officials what it will do to ensure it does not repeat the violation.

Other regulations would impose fees up to $50,000 if SpaceX testing exceeds 125 decibels. about the loudness of a typical air raid siren which is 120 decibels, according to the Penn State Chart.

The Waco Herald-Tribune reported City Manager Kevin Evans said the company’s tests typically come in below 100 decibels and have never exceeded the 115-decibel mark. We could find no information publicly available on the more recent tests.

The restrictions on sound take into consideration the decibel levels within 3 miles. That's fine for Mc Gregor but not so good for Oglesby at 2.9 miles

The SpaceX agreement generally restricted testing between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., and all tests involving a rocket engine that generates 2 million pounds of thrust must take place in the daytime.

McGregor's city manager said some of the restrictions even came from SpaceX itself according to the Tribune.

"If you're not moving forward, you're going back and really no such thing as just let's just stay asleep a little status quo. town I think. I don't think you can do that," said Mayor Hering.

But Hering vows to hang onto McGregor's small town feel... as long as possible, if not longer.

When it comes to living with the Space program, No one put it better than Jack Kennedy, as he quoted William Bradford.

"All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR

If you live anywhere within, say, 30 miles of the spaceX testing facility, you've no doubt felt the presence of your neighbor more than once, especially lately.

But what do you know about the company, and espcially the man behind it?

Like the Railroad Barons of old, the New Space Barons, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Elon Musk stand to shape the future of transportation.

Elon Musk set himself apart from all the other so-called "space barons" early-on.

"I think he's kind of a Howard Hughes of our generation in a way." said Dr. Michael Bomba, University of North Texas.

Those who've studied him, like Bomba, say Musk and SpaceX moved ahead, because Musk knew, to succeed , he had to Boldly go, where no private company had gone before.

"Elon musk always struck me, as being the real deal because he actually was showing what he was doing," said Bomba.

It follows advice the space mogul gave students at the University of Southern California, during their commencement in 2014.

Musks first piece of advice... work harder than anyone... and sacrifice.

"When my brother and I were starting our first company, instead of getting an apartment, we just rented a small office and we slept on the couch and we showered in the YMCA.

We’re so hard up that we had just one computer So the website was up during the day, and I was coding at night.

7 days a week, all the time," he said.

Musks second step to success, surround yourself with good, smart, accomplished people.

"Either be with, join a group that’s amazing, that you really respect.

Or, if you’re building a company, you’ve got to gather great people.

I mean, all a company is is a group of people that have gathered together to create a product or service.

So depending upon how talented and hard working that group is,

and to the degree in which they are focused cohesively in a good direction,

that will determine the success of the company," said the Billionaire.

Now here's where Musk caught Dr. Bomba's attention: Musk walked the walk more than he talked the talk.

"Focus on signal over noise", said Musk.

"At Tesla, we’ve never spent any money on advertising.

We’ve put all the money into R and D and manufacturing and design to try and make the car as good as possible.

And, I think that’s the way to go. For any given company, keep thinking about,

Are, these efforts that people are expending, are they resulting in a better product or service?"

And if they’re not, stop those efforts.

Dr. Bomba Says that's what set Musk apart from the other would-be space barons.

"There were a lot of companies that were just sort of..: You know, they would have these concepts and drawings and this is what we want to do, but there was never anything to show, and you can go to my website at spacex and there was like a rocket engine and he's like this will blew up for this reason. Or we don't know I believe we're still trying to figure it out," said Bomba.

Musk set a goal and took the most direct path he could find to get there,

"You boil things down to the most fundamental truths you can imagine, and then you reason up from there.

And this is a good way to figure out if something really makes sense, or is it just what everybody else is doing.

It takes a lot of effort. But if you’re trying to do something new, it’s the best way to think," Musk told the graduates.

"That that's what I mean like you know, he was really trying to do this other guys were just sort of looking for money and maybe go to the next step, but he was he was already on step, two, three and four so...." Bomba said.

So, that's how SpaceX moved the needle for privtate space companies, proved his determination to NASA and won millions in government contracts to supply the International space station and more.

All the roaring and shaking around SpaceX in McGregor and Olglesby has a purpose, and no, its not just to annoy the neighbors.

The testing aims to take us to the stars.

"So I would encourage you to take risks now, and to do something bold," said Elon Musk to the USC Class of 2014.

Born and raised in South Africa, he left for his mother's native Canada to avoid mandatory military service.

He later made it to Stanford University where he attended classes for all of two days when he quit to began his career as an entrepreneur.

After creating and selling companies, including an online city guide used by newspapers, and an online bank that would later become PayPal, Musk, with more than several million in his pocket, looked to the skies and saw profits that stretched to infinity and beyond.

He built SpaceX, first into an automated freighter to the International space station where Just last week, one of his dragon capsules delivered Christmas gifts and supplies.

But Musk wasn't content to do just short hauls. He knew NASA had ambition to get back to the moon and then to Mars, and positioned himself as a man who could help NASA astronauts get there.

What drew Musk to Texas?

A ready made rocket testing center in McGregor helped, built during world war two, used by the air force, Phillips Petroleum, and finally Rocketdyne... the proving ground had already played an important part in testing that led to the Saturn V rocket which sent man to the moon.

Texas also held advantages when it came to launching rockets.

"Exactly yeah the proximity, you know the reason that you would put a lunch side down in South Texas, is the closer you are to the equator the greater lift the rocket you have and that's just a Part of physics and so building McGregor makes sense because you're already going to be in South Texas you're at the south most point.

In the continental us, and then you bring in these rockets from a much shorter distance it makes it a lot easier.

But why Musk's push to the stars? The answer may have come in this presentation to the International Astronautical Congress in 2017.

"I think fundamentally the future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we're a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species than if we're not," said Elon Musk, the SpaceX CEO.

Musk expects to have a role in NASA's next act and eventually its trips to the moon and, yes, Mars.

"You want to wake up in the morning and think "the future's going to be great". And that's what being a space-faring civilization is all about," said Musk.

He plans to get there, on a rocket originally code named "BFR" I'll let your imagination figure that one out.

To pay for it, SpaceX began work on a smaller "workhorse" if you will. Totally re-usable

"Well, I think you know Elon musk has been working with SpaceX from from the early 2000s, so I think it's been a very sort of gradual iterative development is technology And so I think things have improved, but you know, he said lots of failed launches, And, and that and that's part of the process of learning how to make this work. What he's trying to do is interesting and essential really to make space travel and expensive, which is to reuse components, because. You know, we already have technology that we can kind of throw away and we're up at atmosphere.

it's just very expensive the way you make it cheaper, which is to make it more commercially viable is to make it. reusable and so that those are the challenges he's facing right now, how do I make these engines work in a way that I can turn them very quickly," said Bomba.

To that end, SpaceX developed huge tanks with stronger than ever carbon fiber matrix.

SpaceX's troubled Raptor engine, the one shaking McGregor and Olgesby so much remains a work in progress, but it boasts the highest thrust to weight ratio of any engine ever made.

Work on perfecting takeoffs and landings in different types of atmospheres continues with an aim to having a fleet of so-called shuttles with automated refuling operations as needed along the way.

Even as work continues on that, Musk has a backup plan.

" If you build a ship that's capable of going to Mars, what if you take that same ship, and go from one place to another on Earth? So we looked at that, and the results are quite interesting."

"Most of what people consider to be long-distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour," said Musk.

Researchers like Michael Bomba have already begun thinking about that.

THE REPORT

As the new race for space heats up with private companies pushing to lift off and aim for the stars, many of them located in Texas.

But is Texas ready for the space business?

Texas long ago, began laying the groundwork for producing an educated workforce, something that's already begun paying off.

In the New Race for Space, no document tells more about the state of Aerospace in Texas than a report, originally commissioned by Governor Rick Perry.

As SpaceX started making inroads to what had, until then, been a totally "government run" space program, Governor Perry prepared to sell the Lone Star State to the emerging Space Barons.

Dr. Michael Bomba, Now, at the University of North Texas, Authored the report.

"Working with governor's office, we did meet with Jeff Bezos at one point to talk about Blue Origin. We didn't learn too much about it, but it was an interesting experience. And we met with Burt Rutan, another time and and it was like it was a very exciting creative tune back then because everybody was getting into this and nobody knew what exactly how was that would turn out. " said Bomba.

It turned out, Texas had a strong foothold in Aerospace and a good argument for growing the business.

But at the time, NASA took a wait-and-see approach.

"What I saw working with the governor's office was there was there was not a significant amount of interaction between our efforts and NASA. At the time, NASA was really interested in engaging it with the commercial side. I think they were waiting to see how far we got along.

That was the Bush administration and under the Obama administration, there was a greater push for space commercialization because they realized that that was how it was going to move forward.

They wanted to get it off our balance sheet and have snail's pace. Exactly, exactly. Yeah. It was really a funding issue," said Bomba.

THE WORKFORCE

But lots of companies had already put funding into the lone star state.

In Central Texas, Waco held the big areospace cards with SpaceX and L3, and TransDeigm Subsidiary Marathon Norco.

We found L3 very busy on our last visit to it's site adjacent to the State Technical College.

As L3 merged with the Florida-Based Harris Corporation, TSTC Leaders said they stood ready to up their game to supply new high tech companies with a trained and ready workforce.

”We're excited about growing that workforce with L3, not just in our traditional graduate model, but in customized training and providing needs for their specific contracts,” said, Adam Hutchinson, TSTC Waco Provost.

TSTC not only courted L3, but it also snagged Elon Musk's other big brand, Tesla... training mechanics and other good paying Tesla jobs, but you don't hear TSTC toot that particular horn much.

TSTC Already partners with several aerospace and high tech companies including some that have become household names. You say you haven't heard that? Well, it's no surprise, because high tech companies guard their secrets very carefully, and often have what they call non-disclosure agreements. That means TSTC doesn't talk about them and they certainly don't talk about them.

Other parts of the state tried to up their game. If they didn't have a big aerospace presence they made it sound that way, usually by re-branding their airport.

"Some of the airports read they renamed themselves as space ports" said Bomba.

Is that a marketing gimmick, more than anything?

"Potentially, I mean, some of them may have had a client who was interested in space activities and all the airport can do is be a good host. But it's really up to the business," said the business expert and professor at the University of North Texas.

Dr. Bomba, the author of a report on the state of aerospace in Texas, says the lone star state stands strong in the race to attract more of the space business here.

Edgar Martinez wants to fly for an airline someday, And believes the training he gets at Waco's Texas State Technical College will get him there.

"TSTC really cares about their students in general, and what they're studying" said Martinez.

But it's just as likely, he may fly a rocket to the space station or the moon.

The author of the most authoritative report so far on Texas and the Aerospace business, belileves, not even the sky's the limit for Texas and the New race for space.

How do experts expect this technology to develop in the years ahead and where are we headed?

"Well, that's interesting question, because, you know, obviously, it needs to have a commercial application. You know, they're building out these satellite based internet systems probably happened first. There may be other applications that we haven't thought about yet. Access to space of courses, space tourism, and then if we ever actually put some sort of man base on the Moon or on Mars and the future and servicing that will be a big effort so.." said Dr. Bomba.

So, we may need the kind of high-tech trained students the State Technical College turns out every day.

A recent deal to train Tesla workers here, points to a bright future, one some current students here have only recentlly begun to consider. including two I talked to about careers in space.

These gentleman wanted to be pilots. When asked "What would I What would you say if I told you in the future, you may be able to fly rockets instead of playing? What do you think? Would you want to do that?" One young man said, "Heck, yeah." the other said, "No, I think I'll stay with the planes".

So there's there's certainly interest in space, it's just that it's not occured to many people, they have a future in space, or it's a future their children could have.

"Yeah, I definitely think so. And, you know, there's also as with automobiles, there's going to be a drive towards autonomous aircraft as well. So that's an IT that's just kind of a personal interest of mine is observing how that technology is developing," said Dr. Bomba.

And it all depends on making trips to space commercially viable... thats the reason for all the roaring and shaking across central Texas these last several months, finding a way to get off this rock in a way that won't break a billionaire.

SpaceX, for now, remains a step or two ahead of the others.

CEO Elon Musk says, all he has to do here is launch a starship twice a month, all next year to make this viable commercially.

Is that possible?

"Wow. I don't know. I mean, I think I think he seems to get things done through sheer force of will alone, right, right. I guess my point earlier, they have a lot of pressures they've burned through a lot of money. They're dependent upon new innovations as they go along. And so, you know, I think he's among the most qualified people to make that happen.

But there are no guarantees you know, and so I hope it does for the state of Texas and for for the future, space commercialization, but you know, we just have we just have to wait and see," said Bomba.

To be sure, SpaceX has made a believer out of NASA which awarded it a contract for a lunar landing vehicle.

Meantime it's got Students here taking a harder look at their futures.

"This opens up a lot more doors for students in general TSTC is very well rounded with ap mechanics and pilots, ATC too. with the merger going on, it can really open some doors for many people" said Martinez.

DON'T FORGET YOUR CAMERA

In the past man could only dream of going to the stars.

Since the 1960's we've taken our first steps there, but before we do, companies have found a popular side business... launching tourists into space.

25 News shows us sending Junior, or grandma on a short trip on a rocket can help man get to Mars, faster.

When popular former NFL player and TV show host, Michael Strayhan blasted off into space on a Blue Origin Capsule, many thought it. a novelty.

But the so called space barons choose people like him, the daughter of the first American in space Alan Shepherd, former astronaut-in training Wally Funk... and even TV's Captain Kirk... to make space travel appealing to the rest of us... and later on, sell us tickets for a trip like theirs.

And Texas has a starring role in that plan.

When Dr, Michael Bomba of the University of North Texas, worked for Governor Rick Perry, he looked hard at the then-exploding space business, but back then, space tourism hardly registered at all

"I can tell you this, this goes back pretty far, so this is an early 2000s and governor Perry at the time was very interested in promoting the Space commercial commercialization in Texas.

The foundation laid in that report, and the long Texas tradition in aerospace AND outer space, helped lure more space related companies, here.

In looking for ways to pay for space commercialization, business leaders saw space tourism, as an easy way to make easy money, as they continue the hard work to go even further out.

" You know I think i'd like i'd like to think some of it, you know kind of built the foundation for what we have today, but you know there's a lot of work that happened after that so, Why is it, I think it did, because I mean the very idea of US civilians, be able to go up into space fill your Shatner can do it yeah. It could be available to all of us one day, you know for a price so."

So until then, we keep our eye on the sky for our favorite celebrity to pass overhead in a space capsule. Maybe they'll wave to us. And keep in mind... down the road, we could join them, as some of the few, who've gone where few have gone before.

Have you bought your ticket to the moon, yet?

If you haven't, you still have time.

Celebrities like Michael Strayhan, and rich people, which, I guess, you could count Strahan as both... seem to make up the only civilians who've ever left earth's atmosphere for the vacuum of space, besides astronauts.

The new space barons aim to change that.

SpaceX and Blue Origin have located significant operations here, while Virgin Galactic works from this futuristic "Spaceport" in New Mexico.

All three have incorporated some kind of "ticket to space program" in their business plans.

SpaceX found a litle a little more success by branding itself, a kind of "FedEx to the stars", using the money it made by sending robotic "Dragon Capsules" loaded with cargo to and from the international space station... on its manned programs, and its founder's dream of going to Mars.

That Left Blue Origin and Virgin galactic to fight over space tourism, as they work to grow their business with the government and others.

"So the idea being that these what your research has shown and really what's what you guys have done, to try to blaze the trail for all this ends up being in the public domain. Now companies seem to come in and take the baseline that you created and build upon that was created another dimension of the economy? I guess, because of that, because now you're talking space tourism. That was unheard of most of my lifetime space travel was almost a paramilitary thing. Most of my life. Now I can buy a ticket from Jeff Bezos, again or Elon Musk down the street and go for a 20 minute ride. n, maybe I go to the moon someday, but it's interesting. "said Bomba. You might call the stakes, "out of this world".

A study last year from "Research and Markets" shows space tourism currently generates 44 and a half million dollars a year... now get ready for blast off, because ten years from now, experts predict the business will zoom to almost 100 times that... with a compound annual growth race of almost 25 percent.

In simpler terms: The global sub-orbital space tourism market is estimated to reach $396.6 million in 2031, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.46% during the forecast period 2021-2031.

Try getting that kind of interest rate at your bank and you'll see why folks with plenty of cash in their pocket, and the stars in their eyes , make it their business, to send us on a 12 minute vacation that's out of this world.

Down the road, some companies plan to send us up for a week aboard a spaceship... with longer-range plans calling for a vaction on the moon... don't forget your golf clubs.... and Maybe even Mars.

You might call a dog the first space tourist. The Soviet Union sent "Leika" a Husky-Spitz mix into space, making Leika the first living thing we know of to orbit earth.

Leika didn't survive the trip, giving her life for the exploration of space, now giving provate companies, and yes even the Russians a chance to make a buck from the Leika's legacy.

Back here at home, Texas early-on laid the groundwork for space tourism

"so the legislature also gave a small amount of seed funding to counties, who are interested in developing a commercial Spaceport.. said Dr Bomba."

A few managed to get a spaceport designation, while they wait for the business to catch up.

And even so, Bomba says, in the end, businesses will dictate where we'll eventually find spaceports, and not local governments with dreams of dollar signs.

And while space may get the most attention, Dr. Bomba point out, you'll find faster growth a little closer in, in all-new, all-cargo airports like Alliance in Fort Worth.

While Hong Kong and Memphis remain king in moving overall tonage by air, Alliance and a few others keep growing, with Fort Worth beco Oming perhaps the biggest in these "Single-play" airports.

But what interested Dr. Bomba most as he wrote of the state of aerospace for Governor Perry, the amount innovation.

"I think that really was interesting and I was also fascinated I think by you know, this being the early part of space commercialization being 15 years ago. sort of the ideas that were being percolating at that time, I mean it's really kind of exciting period." he said

He calls the innovation that got Michael Strayhan and other space tourists off the earth... almost Texan... and just the start.

Strayhan calls it, fantastic.

TO THE MOON

2022 holds big opportunities for hte nation's space program and it's private partners like spaceX and Blue Origin, their workers. and maybe a little relief for neighbors.

SpaceX isn't in business to annoy the neighbors, but recently it's done a pretty good job of it.

"I'm used to it but it's aggravating, very aggravating," said Anna Keiser of McGregor.

While some Central Texans wear the badge of "space pioneer" proudly, others say, they can do without the noise and the title.

This year, as NASA returns to the moon, private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, will work alongside the agency to support this new mission called Artemis.

A program designed not just to expand our knowledge. but also our understanding of ourselves, and our economic opportunity.

"To keep it and sustain it, we have to find commercial applications for and then practical uses and things that make our lives better," said Dr. Michael Bomba of the University of North Texas.

But in the meantime, we have a whole lot of movin' and shakin' goin' on.

Sometimes it may seem as if the roaring and shaking around the SpaceX rocket testing center will never stop.

But some experts say, a NASA program launching this year, moon could give us a little relief in the years ahead.

"Rattles the doors, everything rattles, you can't even hear the TV," Keiser told 25 News Reporter Andrew Lamparski.

He experience, and that of her neighbors, point out the price of progress.

Thursday evening, January 6th, McGregor's fire department responded to a grass fire at SpaceX, well away from most of the rockets, but pointing out, once again,the front row seat some in McGregor and Oglesby have to the action.

NASA officials like to talk bout the many benefits of the space program, while they too, remember the sometimes high cost.

AirSafe.com reports almost 20 people have died in accidents related to space travel, all but one, related to NASA.

So to borrow a phrase from Buzz Lightyear, the agency has taken very careful steps as it once again looks, to infinity and beyond.

"And so that's where we are today. And we're building the Artemis program right now and the plan is to launch the first first woman and the first person of color and land on the moon.

Go to the moon learn to live there sustainably right some sources, animal presence on the moon we learned valuable lessons and then going to Mars. There's a lot that needs to be learned but it's a NASA showing one thing over the generate over the generations in the decades is that you know it learns the hard lesson. That's that's what we do. And that's you know, it's inspiring said Brian Odom, NASA Historian

And this time NASA won't go it alone. Private Space partners, including Texas companies SpaceX and Blue Origin, will play important roles.

" NASA is building the Space Launch System you know, NASA in its in its, its contract partners, Boeing, right. So the building space launch system, that's the vehicle that's going to take us back to the moon, you know, along the way, we're going to get support from from contractors, right. So we're getting support from commercial space. The International Space Station, you look at what's happening there. You look at the who is it that's going to take astronauts to and from low Earth orbit? Well, that's commercial space, right." said Odom.

As Artemis leads to an eventual base on the moon, private space companies will haul the freight and carry the load.

The new "buzzword" in space? "Sustainability" not just in making the moon livable.... but in making trips to infinity and beyond, pay for themselves. (sorry Buzz Lightyear).

"if you look across the world right now, you know space is just growing in leaps and bounds and so many different players again, but as we sit back and as we watch the Artemis program playoff, that's, that's where these where it's going to be very unique, very different than what we've seen before. But that's the only way we can do it and make it sustainable," Odom explained.

And that brings us back to all the moving and shaking in McGregor. Sustainability in space, may make life for some of us here, a little less sustainable, for now.

"Our front door will not stay level. It's a storm door, glass, heavy, but it won't stay level," said Kaiser.

But there's hope. Because the Artemis program includes a moon-orbiting space station called Gateway, where some believe, testing of NEW kinds of rockets can take us to Mars, without disturbing the neighbors on the moon, too much.

TO INFINITY....

You might call, little Cooper Hill, the future of the Texas Space program.

He only plays with rockets today... tomorrow he could fly one to Mars.

"They're talking about going to the moon sometime soon. would you like to go to the moon? Maybe when I'm old."

In the meantime, He'll get to learn about how SpaceX makes its rockets take off.... and land... standing up, how Blue Origin capsules kiss the lips of earth's atmosphere as it gives passengers... a "lift".

In short, little Cooper will likely have a bit of a say, in the direction of space program, as it gives free markets a free-er hand in where resources should go,

All things that started to develop before his birth, and will continue to influence his future.

Cooper's Dad calls it a "future of excitement", recalling his own trip, as a boy, to the Kennedy Space Center.

"I thought it was inspiring I think there is something inside all of us that's interested in space and something outside what we currently see, and it's really neat that it's in Central Texas."

Central Texas always played a small but vital role as the American space program began, something which changed the lone star state forever.

"Well, certainly, Texas was very much an agricultural state at the time, and very much, you know, oil, gas that was driving really the economy. And I think Texas helped to reshape that economy once the decision was made in 61. To build this center here in Houston. You really start to see the growth of aerospace and you start to see the change in our economy," said Jennifer Ross-Nazzal of NASA's Johnson Space Center.

But the arrival of SpaceX at the turn of the century eventually fired the starting gun on a NEW Race for Space... one in which companies, not governments competed for supremacy.

It's a race Texas leaders say, tney can win with the "can-do" spirit that made the Republic what it is today, as it grows its influence for tomorrow.

The kind of thing that can provide young Texans like Cooper, with a high-paying job and a better life.

"what do i think about it? I like it" said young Mr. Hill.

... AND BEYOND

How will Texas fare in the new race for space?

it's a race where private companies have become just as important as the government.

Texas gained a foothold early, and now faces the challenge of maintaining that lead among a host of competitors.

But boosters in the state says, Texas has a bit of a secret weapon.... something that runs through the character of every resident of the lone star state.

Little Cooper Hill sets his sights high when it comes to his toy rockets. He;s always looking for that, step, or stomp that sends his rockets higher and farther.

"Why do I like rockets so much? Because I can fire 'em. and it looks like they more like have countdowns" said the Castle Heights boy.

Texas, in much the same way started doing the same kinds of things, to maintain or increase its share of the growing aerospace business, in the "New Race for Space".

But how new?

Today's society might seem just like the one President Kennedy described in this 1962 Speech

"For we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear in an age of both knowledge an ignorance." said JFK

What's different about THIS race for space.... competition... not with the Soviets, but between ourselves.

Again, President Kennedy: "and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can afford to stay behind in this race for space." he said.

What he said about nations, now applies to states, all scrambling to grab their share in the new race for space, in which private companies, and not the government, call the shots.

Texas elbowed its way to the table in the early days, and now can compete as an equal to California and Florida, the other two big space powerhouses. as all the space companies compete with each other.

To succeed, these businesses have to find not only concepts that work in space, but have applications that can pay royalties for use on the ground for years after: The new "Economics for Space"

Bomba: And, and so that's going to be one of the challenges is, we can do a lot of things, but what do we do with it well, once we have it, you know how do we, how do we, how do we make money off of it to be, you know a little bit crass.

Well it's got its got pay for itself. Exactly yeah," said Dr. Michael Bomba of the University of North Texas.

Paying your own way...something rather new to the space business, and something likely to stay with us a long time.

SpaceX will likely pay is noise fees to McGregor for years to come, as the city looks for other, complementary businesses to grow alongside it's noisy neighbor,.

Jim Hering, McGregor Mayor

"If you're not moving forward, you're going back

I'm really optimistic about about the year the aerospace and again, the industrial park that we have," said McGregor Mayor, Jim Hering.

Why? Because we Texans have endured hardship for far less. We know that to stay a leader of states, the Republic of Texas must fight to stay ahead, to make sure in the minds of the public "Texas means space".

"You know, my daughter lives in Florida. As a matter of fact, you know, obviously SpaceX is down there as well. I live at the proving ground We're part of the future!" said SpaceX neighbor Arnie Derrickson of Oglesby.

A future firmly rooted in the past. as the decedents of pioneers of one type, become pioneers in another very different sort of realm.

"it reminds me of a poster that I've seen, I haven't seen it recently, but it's a poster of an astronaut in the MMU sort of floating in space that says "Texas still in the frontier business," recalled Jennifer Ross-Nazzal, of Houston's sprawling Johnson Space Center.

Something we Texans take pride in, even if it does cost us some of our prized possessions.

"What do you do just put the pictures back up and hope for the best? Yeah we do, and scoot 'em back a little more each time. What do you do ? They gotta be somewhere," said Georgette and David Waggoner of Oglesby.

They gotta be somewhere, and so do we. and in a way only we Texans can, we endure the hardships hoping to enjoy the benefits in the years ahead.

And as the New Race for Space aims for the stars, and the promise they hold, others look into that future in a never-ending search for answers

what's going to be the next major breakthrough? So that's one of the wonderful things about NASA is that it can take this on these challenges," said NASA Historian, Brian Odom.

And feed a steady stream of new opportunities for states that host space operations, the more businesses you have the bigger the benefit.

Sterling Hill believes the future holds a sky full of opportunities for his son.

"Every kid is interested in rockets and I think you're gonna get more ideas and more competition which I think is gonna drive innovation. So, yeah, I think it's real exciting." he said.

Has Texas earned its way in the new race for space? almost certainly,

can it hold its ground among a host of competitors? Experts say its likely.

But can the lone star state grow its share of the aerospace business amid a constellation of options?

Those in the know say it will take a typically Texan determination to see us through, as we all boldly go, where no one has gone before.

Perhaps President Kennedy said it best when described the reason for the first race for space.

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard,"he said.

Texans have sacrificed for the space program, but it's opened a door of opportunity for a new generation.

A generation that knows whether they walk through that door or not, they'll benefit from it's many discoveries.

Maybe that what's got Cooper, for now, wanting to keep his feet on the the ground.

"Would I rather go into space or stay here on the ground? I'd rather stay here on the ground and watch."

.... But he will still have the option of space, something he'll no doubt become more comfortable with,as Texas aims to become the world's "Space Place" for many years to come

While the space race of the 1950's and 60's served to counter communism.... Today's version aims to tame that dark wilderness all around us and promote a new space model where free enterprise rules, and all benefit from, the "New" Race for Space.