Space exploration is taking another giant leap in Texas. Some may think immediately of Houston, aka “space city” – where Mission Control guided Apollo 11 to the moon, 50 years ago. But many companies pushing the bounds of space travel are looking south, to Brownsville.
The mission of NewSpace Brownsville along with the Expanding Frontiers initiative is to make the city the new hub for space exploration – not to compete with other aerospace companies, but to support their growth.
Dr. Frederick Jenet is an astrophysicist and associate professor at UT-Rio Grande Valley and the founder of Expanding Frontiers. He says the nonprofit organization promotes the commercial space ecosystem in Brownsville, the state of Texas and the country as a whole. Once a contender for what became the Kennedy Space Center, Jenet says Brownsville is now a prime location for a growing private industry. That’s made evident by SpaceX’s Boca Chica operation, 23 miles east of the city.
“This particular area has always been – you know, geographically, or real-estate-wise, they say ‘location location location’ – has always been an ideal location for space launch,” Jenet says.
Jenet says unlike the space race of the past, between the Soviet Union and the United States, the new race is a collaboration between private companies.
“It is really best that we don’t consider this to be a space race or a competition, what we’re actually doing is we’re building an ecosystem and you look at it as ‘there are things that need to be in place that help us support each other,’ ” Jenet says. “Instead of looking at it as competing with each other, you look at it as sort of a biological system.”
Jenet says the future of commercial space travel is multifaceted and more than just companies building rockets by the beach. Inexpensive access to space, methods of communication and acquiring customers to use space services were just some of the reasons he says for the ‘ecosystem’ that New Frontiers is building.
Although the days of NASA dominance in space are over, Jenet says the government can still play a role in furthering the aerospace industry by fostering entrepreneurship.
“Government can help to play a role, both with policies that it puts in place, both with incentives in terms of monetary incentives but also incentives in terms of working with NASA, because the last 60 years I think they’ve done an awful lot for space exploration and development so they know a few things,” Jenet says.
Written by Geronimo Perez.