Is moving to Las Cruces, NM, to be involved in space exploration a solid idea?
July 25, 2007 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Is moving to Las Cruces, NM, to be near other budding space explorers a good idea?

Las Cruces is where Spaceport USA is being built. It's being built in Upham, NM, to be exact, but Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences are the nearest actual cities, 45 miles to the North and 30 miles to the East, respectively.

Space exploration is one of my major preoccupations, and I seek to make it my avocation. (Presently, I spend my time with a private company revealing facets of local eco-systems to vistors of Key West.)

I have a background in academic research and am an author of a space travel book for pre-teens.

And I am ready to make the transition to the field of my dreams. That is, training young minds for space exploration.

Is Las Cruces the place to relocate my new future?
posted by humannaire to Work & Money (20 answers total)
No offense dude, but have you BEEN to Los Cruces? One of the reasons the Los Cruces area was chosen is because there's darned-near nothing else there, and it's so hot and dusty and unpleasant that it's really hard to get people to move there.

I'd at least take a visit before you decide to move there. You may be disappointed.
posted by answergrape at 10:22 AM on July 25, 2007

Well, Las Cruces is just as hot, and has about as many retirees, as Key West. But it's not humid, and it's a growing, affordable small city with a nice quality of life and cool stuff to do nearby.

If I were you, though, I'd wait to see what actually pans out with "Spaceport America." So far, it's just a concrete pad in the desert, and the two launches that have taken place there were nothing that couldn't have been done out of someone's back yard (read: amateur.) I've attended both.

Marketing hype aside, whether any of the planned space tourism businesses will ever actually take off is really anyone's guess.

Likewise, it may be a long time before smaller suborbital payload operations, such as UP Aerospace, so far the only company to use the nascent spaceport, become commercially viable. There are more than a few space biz hucksters trying to shake down local governments for money and real estate, and I suspect many will eventually drop off the radar. Furthermore, state support for the spaceport may lose momentum.

Your interest in training young minds, however, would be quite applicable in the region, as the various efforts to raise taxes to pay for the spaceport have included a raft of educational programs. Most of those are HQed at the (very hokey) Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, about 70 miles from Las Cruces. And those first two launches, one of which actually reached space, did contain some experiments built by kids, who were very stoked about the whole thing.

Why not try your ideas out in an area where there is already an established space industry, such as Cape Canaveral? At the very least, you might want to come out and actually see what's happening in southern N.M.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:33 AM on July 25, 2007

I don't know that Las Cruces will especially be a hotbed for the type of work you want to do. The Xprize foundation, which had been hosting their yearly confab in that area, has moved the next Xprize Cup to Holloman AFB, which is closer to Albuquerque.

You might want to think beyond where the launches take place and focus on general opportunities for teaching and learning about space. I'd suggest a good starting place for this might be a planetarium.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2007

Oops, I 'm wrong about the vectors for Holloman, it's closer to Las Cruces, but still in the middle of nowhere.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:47 AM on July 25, 2007

"Truth or Consequences"!?! - for real?

The next town I build shall be called New Truth or Consequences. Population: 1.
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:50 AM on July 25, 2007

posted by AwkwardPause at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2007

Boo, Las Cruses. I was only there for three weeks, but managed in that short time to become more bored than I've even been in my life. Flat, hot, arid, and dull. At least in Key West you have six-toed cats and wild chickens to chase around. Lac Cruses? Horney Toads and Chupacabras.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:21 AM on July 25, 2007

I am ready to make the transition to the field of my dreams. That is, training young minds for space exploration.

If your plan is that this would involve some sort of paid job, you might see about finding that first, then relocate wherever the job is. If you want to volunteer, find an organization that wants you to work with them, then relocate.

T or C is considerably closer by road to the spaceport. There are no droves of budding young space explorers there. There are mostly droves of retired people exploring the lake.

It sounds like you are looking for someplace that teens interested in space will have congregated. I don't know if there is a place like this, most teens live wherever their parents choose. If you want to work with teens whose parents are very interested in seeing their children go into science and technology careers, you might consider moving to Los Alamos, NM. How seriously people there will take you in this venture might have a lot to do with the sort of academic research you have done.
posted by yohko at 12:21 PM on July 25, 2007

I live in Las Cruces. I can't predict whether moving here will help you advance in the space industry, but I don't get the Las Cruces hate going on here. Yes, it's high desert, and if you can't stand dry hot temps and barren landscapes, you probably shouldn't come here. But it's less than two hours into either the Lincoln National Forest or the Gila National Wilderness, which are both very attractive. Cruces has about anything you would expect from a smallish city with a biggish university. Decent restaurants and shopping choices. El Paso is only 45 minutes away with anything you might need that Cruces doesn't have. Decent hiking is available in the nearby mountain ranges, and the cost of living is good compared to the coasts. I don't know what sorts of thrills other people want from their cities, but as small cities go, this one isn't bad at all.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:49 PM on July 25, 2007

A couple of additional thoughts: one UK-based company with an office in Las Cruces, Starchaser, is doing some educational outreach, such as touring a rocket around to schools, that sort of thing. They have some pretty grandiose plans, and, of course, are exploring a public offering to pay for them, but they might be the best employment option at the moment. Don't know if they're actually hiring.

Also, if you don't already know Spanish, and you want to live 20 miles from Mexico and work in the education business, you'd better learn it.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:50 PM on July 25, 2007

Oh, and I would totally live in Las Cruces - for all the reasons Pater Aletheias gives. Cool place.

But suffice it to say, I don't predict the area will become a space business hub any time soon. The state has already moved on to the "green business" craze.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:07 PM on July 25, 2007

I live in Albuquerque, and we go down to visit folks in Las Cruces semi-regularly. Yes its hot there, and in many ways its a small town. But I never thought of it as a bad place to live.

If you have any contacts with the companies already doing work near the future spaceport, or with the people running the xprize, perhaps see if you can to a part time or temporary gig and try living and working here before you make the move?

For New Mexico in general, some people love it here, some hate it - and sometimes it takes a while for the state to grow on you. (took me two years before I stopped muttering about moving back to California - now I'm not sure about living anywhere else)
posted by korej at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2007

I live in Las Cruces as well. If you or any family members you might bring with you enjoy big city life, you will have some adjusting to do. I'll have to respectfully disagree with Pater Aletheias about the shopping and restaurants here (there are certainly lots of dining options, as long as what you want involves green chile, chain restaurants, or some combination of the two). The summer is pretty rough if you don't like heat, but the weather is fine most of the year. There's not much going on in town, but if you like/can learn to like outdoorsy stuff, there's a lot to explore without much of a drive.

Definitely visit first, and explore the town. You'll either like it or hate it ("learning to love it" may be an option, but that seems to be a very slow process, I'll let you know in a decade how that goes). Right now I wouldn't call it a hotbed of space exploration. You might want to wait and see how the Spaceport develops before permanently relocating, because there isn't much there right now. If you visit, consider doing in the fall so you can drive out to the X Prize cup. It's a decent sized gathering of people interested in the industry you're looking at... you might find someone or something that's worth investigating further.
posted by waterlily at 2:55 PM on July 25, 2007

I think it's great that you are chasing your dreams. But as M.C. Lo-Carb says, whether the spaceport takes off is anyone's guess right now. I live and teach in Las Cruces, and I love it here. But it's not for everyone, as you can see above.

You might want to get in touch with the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. They are funded by NASA, and they do a lot of outreach.
posted by Killick at 3:32 PM on July 25, 2007

And on preview, waterlilly is underselling the restaurants. There's also great red chile.
posted by Killick at 3:36 PM on July 25, 2007

What about living in Santa Fe? Equidistant from Sandia National labs and Los Alamos, stuffed with space-y geek types and commutable for UNM. Closer to Las Cruces than you are now, for later consideration. Also, if you're used to the small-town-big-tourists vibe of Key West, Santa Fe has that in spades.

That said I once walked out on a job in Santa Fe to go have lunch in Las Cruces (trufax!), can't remember the name of the restaurant but man was that some great pie.
posted by methylsalicylate at 2:40 AM on July 26, 2007

Wait. All these MeFites live in or near Las Cruces?

That in itself is a sure sign that bodes well!
posted by humannaire at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2007

Wow, I had no idea that so many mefites live in Las Cruces!

I'm a bit late to the party here, but I was born and raised here and go to NMSU, so I know a bit about the town. I also detest the place and hope to leave for good after I graduate, so realize I may be a bit biased.

The "spaceport" is being way hyped up by the city because we have absolutely nothing else of interest around here. It's just a concrete pad in the desert. Don't let the city fleece you into thinking something amazing is going on around here. If you're 50-something, live in Pennsylvania, and enjoy pottery and turquoise knicknacks, you may enjoy it here; otherwise, I'd recommend you to stay far, far away. Drive down El Paseo and walk around the "downtown mall" area; if you enjoy strip-mall architecture and general decay, you will probably like living here.

Also, the restaurants suck. If you like south-of-the-border Mexican food, you will be sorely disappointed. "New Mexican" fare is the only thing you'll find here, and basically means whatever you order will be drowned in ridiculous amounts of green chile and cheese sauce.

There are no more budding space explorers in this town than in any other town without a "spaceport." I walk by the NM Space Grant office every day on the way to classes; they don't do an awful lot but hand out some scholarships every now and then, as far as I can tell. I cannot recall any space outreach programs in my 12 years of public schooling in Las Cruces; there is the PREP program, which is supposedly connected somehow to NASA, but is basically summer school with some occasional trips to exciting places like the water treatment plant (I know, I was in PREP for two years). There's also the nanosatellite project in the engineering department. Last I heard they gave up trying to get into space and are now shooting for a high-altitude balloon deployment scheme. Anyhow, good luck finding any space-heads even among the students working on that project; most of them just want to get their senior project requirement out of the way and graduate (and get the hell out of town, like every other sane person around here).

If you are coming to this town expecting to find a bunch of eager kids excited to learn about space exploration, just waiting for inspiration and guidance, you will be sorely disappointed. The kids around here are as lazy and unmotivated as anyplace else, and the existence of a concrete pad in the middle of the desert dubbed "Spaceport USA" doesn't change anything. I don't mean to rain on your parade, but I have no idea what you'd do around here, honestly.
posted by pravit at 2:35 PM on November 3, 2007

Wow! That's crazy, pravit. I just got back from the International Symposium on Personal Spaceflight, and everyone from the mayor to the city commisioners, as well as the Dean of the Physical Sciences Lab were pure space! It was like the opposite of what you are telling me. All the industrialists were there — Elon Musk, Alex Tail, et al — and there were so many old spacers and engineers living in and around Las Cruces that all I did was hang out with locals!

Trust me, there are LOTS more budding space explorers there. You are too close to the trees to see the forest. (And being from Key West, I understand. People come here and go gaga over "paradise" all the time. But I'm from here...)

One thing I have to agree with you on, the restaurant food was average. However, the home cooking was astounding!

BTW, I checked out your website, you seem like a great guy, and I like your travel style, but just so you know, Las Cruces has voted yes for a real Spaceport while other city's in the US are still trying to wrap their minds around recycling. Everyone is from somewhere, but when you are from somewhere else, the other places are often better.

Keep up the good work. And yes, get out of town while you are still young. The world is awesome fun. And we all get stuck in podunk towns at one time or another.
posted by humannaire at 9:08 PM on November 8, 2007

Glad to hear you liked it here - I hope you can pursue your plans of space education around here.

There are indeed a lot of engineers around here who work at White Sands. Even the guy who owns the used car dealership used to be an astronaut! And of course the city government is going to be optimistic about the "spaceport."

But while we may have some grizzled space vets of our own, I would say most ambitious young people around here are more concerned with leaving than anything else. I mean, all we really have is that concrete slab out in the desert. What about Cape Canaveral, or Houston, or Pasadena/whatever town is associated with JPL?

Of course, if you like the town, it's a different matter entirely, so good luck. And I'm glad to hear you liked my website! If you want to know anything else about living in Las Cruces or the general area, you can e-mail me (in profile).
posted by pravit at 7:35 PM on November 12, 2007

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