Local downrange homeowners have announced their opposition to Georgia spaceport


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Capitalism in space: A local homeowners association today announced its opposition to the proposed commercial spaceport in Camden County, Georgia.

Cumberland and Little Cumberland Islands have just become the first communities in America to be directly downrange from a vertical launch spaceport awaiting license approval from the FAA. More than sixty private homes lie in the path of rockets that Camden County commissioners hope someday to launch.

In the history of U.S. space flight, neither NASA nor the FAA have permitted a vertical launch over private homes or people directly downrange. The risk to people and property from an exploding rocket is too great.

If they are truly downrange from the launchpads, I would say their objection is 100% valid, and the spaceport application should be denied. And I suspect this is true, since the county had an analysis done on this subject but has refused to release it.

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5 comments

  • Dick Eagleson

    I’m not normally much of a fan of eminent domain condemnations but I think this situation might prove a reasonable exception. The proposed Spaceport Camden is unquestionably a transportation-related public use like a road or a rail right-of-way. Given that the only people living on Cumberland and Little Cumberland Islands are a small coterie of rich Democrats who have carefully arranged the islands’ mostly wildlife reserve status to limit occupancy and thereby keep out the hoi polloi, it would be especially sweet to expropriate them for the benefit of the mainland proles who stand to benefit from the advent of the Spaceport. But this would certainly be an uphill fight for the same reason that it hasn’t historically been places like Pasadena and Beverly Hills that get bulldozed for CA freeways, but places like South-Central L.A. Still, it would seem a worthy project to try putting paid to this little nest of government-protected high property values via a different government-based mechanism. Live by the sword and all that.

  • Dick Eagelson:

    Your comment is along the lines of resistance I’ve considered and occasionally used: using the power of the State against it’s most ardent supporters.

    On rare occasions I’ve gotten elected officials involved with recalcitrant bureaucracies, with swift results. It’s a nuclear option, but nice to have a government agency call asking what they can do for you.

  • Robert,
    There is not a single trajectory for even an Electron that does not include multiple homes in the rocket’s Launch Hazard Area. Every home is within 3.5 to 10 miles downrange. Ec formulas indicate that only two pieces of debris with 11 ftlbs. of energy exceed the 1:1,000,000 limits if just FIVE residents are present anywhere on Little Cumberland Island. But the spaceport cannot limit the number of people because they are on their own private property. Camden’s EIS is for Medium-Heavy lift rockets.

    Dick,
    Roads and rails take up discrete amounts of space. A spaceport with 83 to 115 degree trajectories takes up scores of square miles of airspace. Under your theory, an occasional rocket launch justifies the taking of private property that MIGHT be needed someday for a commercial rocket launch. Even liberal interpretations of eminent domain laws do not allow that. Think of the ruckus in Malibu about allowing public access alleys to beaches.

    Even by their divine edict, the Georgia legislature cannot condemn the Cumberland Island National Seashore which belongs to all Americans. 100% of the islands, even the private properties held as retained rights and fee simple, are within the borders of the Seashore.

    More importantly, your judgement about the owners is prejudiced by your politics. And you’re wrong. You don’t have a clue about the economic status of the 125 private property owner families on LCI and CI. The ones I know personally are working stiffs, usually two-income families. They might have inherited land, but not wealth. Only a few could be called “rich.” Even the descendants of the Rockefellers work hard on Cumberland Island. It might surprise you that land was the ONLY thing left of fortunes from a hundred years ago.

  • Dick Eagleson

    If there were any Kennedys on the Cumberlands I might be inclined to believe you. Most of the current generation of that family have been reduced to mere upper middle class status owing to the complete failure of anyone in that clan to look after the (legal) basis of the family fortune after Old Joe – who made much of his boodle as a bootlegger in the 20’s – died. The Rockefellers have, in general, been a lot more effective at maintaining their slices of a very much larger pie and for much longer than the comparatively parvenu Kennedys.

    As for the taking of many square miles of once-private land, that was routinely done during America’s peak hydroelectric dam-building era. Even if the entirety of the Cumberland Islands was condemned by eminent domain, the total land area involved wouldn’t begin to approach the size of a typical dam reservoir created during the TVA’s glory days. Roads and rail lines aren’t a good analogy here.

    Even airports aren’t a good analogy as airplanes are far less likely, at least thus far, to fall out of the sky onto regular civilians – should any be under their flightpaths – than are big rockets. Still, planes fly over people all the time and sometimes fall on them. In my own vicinity, for example, there was the Cerritos crash in the 80’s. If the odds of a rocket-based repeat of Cerritos is deemed sufficiently probable, then – should the Spaceport Camden project be approved – the local government won’t have a lot of choice anent removing the affected residents from potential harm’s way.

    Let’s be clear here; if there weren’t any rich people with title to the oxen being potentially gored, there would be no hoo-rah about Spaceport Camden. It would simply go forward, like all public projects that only need to remove regular people always do.

  • Mary K Gibson

    It is my understanding that the NASA facilitiy at Cape Canaveral (Kennedy Space Center) is now open for business of missle launching and that they are “giving away” launch space and time. There is also a new facility open at the Cecil Field NAS in Jacksonville. The Kennedy Space Center is especially well equiped to handle this activity and with the addition of the Cecil Field facility in Jacksonville this is becoming a quite crowded and competitive category. In 1971 the Thiokol explosion left 29 dead and 50 more extremely injured with terrible burns, loss of limbs, sight and other life threatening and life altering conditions. Then in 1986 the Challenger booster rock failure killed the entire crew of that NASA team. The booster rocket had been built at the Thiokol location. The tragic history of the property being considered for purchase by Camden County should give them great pause from proceeding with this project. Then there is the practical side to buying a property KNOWN to be so profoundly polluted that it CAN NOT be cleaned up. As a citizen and tax payer of Camden County I OBJECT to these foolish and headstrong objectives by a group of politicians who appear to be HELL BENT on destroying our community.

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