The whole world tuned in Tuesday to watch the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, head to space in Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. The trip was remarkable to watch, followed by the exciting celebration after landing.
But where did this all take place?
A small town situated between the beautiful Guadalupe Mountains called Van Horn, Texas.
Bezos celebrated the quaint town, saying "I also want to thank the town of Van Horn. This is a small and amazing little town. And you know, we're making a dent in it. And we appreciate you for allowing us to be part of your town" said Bezos after completing his 10 min trip to outer space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
Bezos’ Blue Origin flight had been in the works for over a decade, which makes us wonder, why did he choose Van Horn, Texas of all places?
The town is situated in West Texas, located right off Interstate 10, with a population of a little over 2,000. It is 458 miles from Austin Texas, the lone star state’s capital, and about 30 miles from the Mexico border.
In the mid-2000s, Bezos actually bought more than 150k acres of land just 25 miles away from Van Horn, thinking the land was perfect for designing and testing rocket engines, according to NewsWest9.
Bezos also interviewed with a local newspaper back in 2005, where he expressed his desire for land in West Texas. He mentioned that as a young boy he spent his summers in South Texas at his grandfather’s ranch.
In terms of Van Horn, he felt it was secluded and away from heavily populated areas, making it the perfect spot to test rockets.
Only a short drive away from Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the town's economy relies heavily on tourism. A little bit further, about 60 miles to the north is Big Bend and Carlsbad Caverns, as well as an ancient barrier reef that includes the four highest peaks in Texas, which also frequents tourists.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, an estimated 10,000 vehicles pass through the town on Interstate Highway 10, making stops in the town's hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, and truck stops, while on their way to other destinations.
Interestingly, one famous visitor who frequented the town was football commentator John Madden, who mentioned in Time Magazine a favorite Mexican restaurant in Van Horn, according to TSHA.
Mayor of Van Horn, Rebecca Brewster, said "our biggest driving force is the tourism dollar. We often plug ourselves as the crossroads of the Texas Mountain Trail," Brewster continued. "[Van Horn] can be your hub for all your adventures in far West Texas."
A member of Culberson County, Van Horn sits in the Permian Basin, which is known as North America’s premier crude-producing region, making it an active spot for corporations involved in the oil industry, including Chevron Corp., Apache Corp, and Conocophillips, according to Bloomberg.
Now with Jeff Bezos making his mark on the town, it will be interesting to see the economic stimulus resulting from Blue Origin, if any.
Housing is lacking in Van Horn and Blue Origin hasn't helped the problem.
The median home value in Van Horn is estimated at just over $247k, according to Zillow, but much of the available housing has been rented out to Blue Origin employees in recent years. Although the employees are trying to co-exist with the locals, this has posed a problem for the townspeople who now lack housing options.
Blue Origin employees have made an effort to fit into the small community, many joining the local school board and the town council, as well as becoming volunteer firefighters, but most of these people are still seen as outsiders to Van Horn.
Blue Origin, itself, said it has helped bring in more than one million for the Van Horn community, through grants to benefit the school district, food bank, and town infrastructure, according to Bloomberg. It has also voiced its plan to support higher education and jobs skills funding.
Despite this, Mayor Brewster said there was barely any input from the town’s residents on whether they approved of the launch site being in their home land, NewsWest9 stated.
Back in 2005, when Bezos came to Van Horn to talk through the FAA permitting process, the residents didn’t show much resistance to Bezos’ plans, NewsWest9 continued, and soon after, Blue Origin’s spaceport was built.
Few jobs at the spaceport have actually went to local residents and many say they have no idea what even goes on at the launch site. Additionally, some feel Blue Origin has actually hurt the town, making them ineligible for state and federal grants due to the influx of Blue Origin workers, Bloomberg stated.
Historically a quaint town, born on the Texas and Pacific Railway, Van Horn has now garnered international fame for better or worse. It will be interesting to see if space tourism is in the cards for this small town's economy and future.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.