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Spaceport Zero

Spaceport Camden promoters will have to do better than having the Coca-Cola Space Center Executive Director come down from Columbus (GA) State University to tell us how wonderful the spaceport will be. He’s excited about Spaceport Camden because Georgia STEM students will benefit when some “engage” with rockets at Camden rather than at launch sites closer to their schools. In fact, the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville and Woodville launch sites are closer to his students than Camden is. And surely Dr. Shawn Cruzen would know that a farmer’s field works plenty well for student rockets?

Perhaps he thinks students will get inspiration from knowing that a multi-million dollar spaceport was built where it was known in advance that commercial orbital rockets couldn't launch. Maybe they will learn the important lesson to seek all the facts before they make cockamamie choices wasting scarce tax dollars.

Dr. Cruzen, whose scientific discipline includes “Extragalactic Astrophysics,” told us in a Letter to the Editor in the Tribune and Georgian that a rocket is already spinning along with the earth at 894 miles per hour in Camden. Thus a rocket launching from here gets a speed boost from the earth’s spin that is almost as good as launching it from Kennedy. Applying his exact logic, launching from Kennedy/Canaveral is not as good as launching from Key West or SpaceX’s new launch site in Texas. Goodbye, Kennedy. It was nice while it lasted.

Yet on Wednesday, slow-spinning Wallops Spaceport launched a rocket yesterday to the International Space Station from its lowly pad that only boosts rockets by a measly 821 miles per hour. And on March 28, Rocket Lab launched eastward to orbit from its spaceport that spins at the ridiculously slow 805 mph.

In other words, the earth's spin speed wasn’t the decider.

Dr. Cruzen also didn’t mention that polar and sun-synchronous trajectories needed for most earth observation satellites aren’t feasible from Camden's limited trajectories between 83 and 115 degrees.

Dr. Cruzen did write something important. He mentioned that other spaceports launching rockets eastward over the ocean don’t launch over “populated areas.“ Camden County Tax maps show that over 120 private properties with more than 150 bedrooms lay directly under Spaceport Camden trajectories and launch hazard areas. People live, play, and sleep there, spinning along at 984 miles per hour. Dr. Cruzen didn’t mention that Wallops’ launch pad is 60 yards from the Atlantic ocean so required liability insurance coverage will be hundreds of millions less than it will be at Spaceport Camden where the rocket must fly over valuable property, the public, and a National Seashore. A physicist may not think about such costs, but a rocket company surely will.

But what steams us is that Dr. Cruzen tells us that “Georgia leaders and educators” want Spaceport Camden. If so, then let the universities and Dr. Cruzen’s Space Science Center benefactor Coca-Cola pay for it. They can call it the Coke Zero Launch Facility because the FAA will license zero commercial orbital rockets from its pad.

Traveling spaceport promoters are one-of-a-kind. They profit from self-serving agendas where a bad outcome won’t impact their lives or professions. Staring at the stars blinds them to the everyday reality that Camden educators already do a great job developing interest in STEM careers, along with health occupations, the arts, accounting, marine sciences, ROTC, criminal justice, agricultural sciences, education, computer applications, business administration, and yes, even rocket science.

Here in Camden, we’ve already got a mismanaged government that can’t produce a hundred private jobs if their lives depended on it. They had to lose over $3 million before they took notice of the PSA scandal. Steve Howard’s spaceport groupies have devolved into asking science teachers to convince us to let them keep spending on a spaceport-to-nowhere. Their latest stunt is that we should do it, “for the children.” It's a strange thing though, Camden Commissioners can afford a Spaceport Authority but can’t seem to find $35,000 a year to support the Woodbine Public Library “for the children.”

Dr. Cruzen also speaks of the future space economy as if it’s a sure thing. Similar wishful-thinkers sold every failed non-NASA spaceport the same spiel. And every one of them requires perpetual subsidies from taxpayers but provide only a few handfuls of jobs. (Busy Kennedy got $2.2 BILLION this year in the NASA budget.) Does Dr. Cruzen think that a spaceport should work like a public university with tenured positions and fancy facilities paid by taxpayers?

It’s the spaceport consultants, lawyers, promoters, academics, travel agents, and custom ball point pen salesmen who’ve benefited from the millions Camden taxpayers have spent from our depleted treasury. We don’t need another traveling, snake-oil salesman telling us what’s best for us. We need better leadership that will read the label before making us take the medicine.

PS: Isn't it likely that other professors think Spaceport Camden is a bad idea because it represents an unprecedented risk to Georgia's fragile coastal marsh resources, to an RCRA-permited hazardous landfill, to rare maritime forests on Cumberland Island National Seashore, or the fiscal security of Camden County?

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