The New Yorker, one of the most prestigious publications in the United States, recently turned its attention to the controversial proposed vertical launch facility which would be located on private property in Powell Township near Lake Superior.
The lengthy article was written by David Rompf, whose articles and essays have appeared in many notable publications such as The New York Times and Newsweek. Rompf knows the Haute Péninsule well, having been born in L’Anse.
The plan for the facility, which is part of the Michigan Launch Initiative, was announced in 2020. It surprised a few people, with KI Sawyer – instead of the pristine Granot Loma site – having been discussed as the location of the facility. .
The spaceport plan comes from the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association. The Powell Township site, if built, would be part of the spaceport which would include a horizontal launch site at Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport in the downstate, with operations for both sites taken supported by a command and control center in Chippewa County.
The vertical launch site disturbed some enough that they formed a group,
Citizens for a safe and clean Lake Superior. This organization has closely followed the issue.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation administers the licensing of spaceport operators. However, as it stands, the fate of the project is in the hands of the Powell Township government, which is expected to rezone the property to industrial.
The CSCLS is now focused on raising awareness of the issue, and certainly, the New Yorker article, which has been repeatedly shared on Facebook, has contributed to this goal, regardless of an individual’s camp.
It was a well-balanced piece, covering both sides of the issue, with the launch promoters saying they would be stewards of the area and engage the community once work begins on the site. However, the article also pointed out that others are concerned about the possible consequences for the environment.
CSCLS President Dennis Ferraro told the Mining Journal that the proposed location in Powell Township includes wetlands and overlies the fragile Jacobsville Sandstone.
He also expressed concerns about the sound of rockets, for example, accompanying people trying to peacefully kayak on Lake Superior.
The economics of installation are also troubling to some people.
The article refers to a report, commissioned by MAMA and written by the non-profit research institute IQM, which states “The annual revenue generated by a launch rate of one rocket launch per week in Michigan would have the same revenue impact in the state, equal to the annual revenue of two additional fast food chains.”
With such a complicated and polarizing issue, it’s wonderful that The New Yorker has brought it to light, raising awareness not only among local residents, but also people across the country and perhaps the world.