By Shanna Cummings
Members of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) welcomed employees from Blue Origin and its nonprofit education arm Club for the Future during the Feb. 17 meeting to hear about the Postbox to Space project. The goal of the project is to install a permanent postbox in Van Horn for people to drop off postcards that will be flown in space on the New Shepard rocket and mailed back once retrieved.
The Postbox to Space is an extension of a civics lesson plan developed by Club for the Future that encourages students to envision society in space colonies and create postcards depicting what they would want that society to value. Though the Postbox to Space is primarily geared toward students, anyone can participate.
Josef Reinke, director of Club for the Future, said he has a goal of launching one million postcards into space. Currently, anyone wanting to send a postcard on the New Shepard needs to include it in a letter to Blue Origin. Employees there imagined a simpler process for collecting postcards that increases interest in both the project and the town: a dedicated Postbox to Space in Van Horn where residents and tourists could drop off postcards bound for the stars.
Van Horn High School’s welding class, with assistance from Blue Origin engineers, will design and build the postbox out of scrap from space-flown rockets. The postbox could be completed as early as mid-May this year. The EDC expects to install the postbox in the downtown parking lot across the street from El Capitan Hotel, incorporating it as a feature in the redesign to make it accessible.
Blue Origin has no interest in monetizing the Postbox for Space, leaving Van Horn in a strategic position to leverage it for tourism opportunities. EDC members discussed the possibility of an exhibit at the Clark Hotel Museum depicting exploration from the original West Texas pioneers to new frontiers in space, including Blue Origin. The museum or other local businesses could provide postcards and memorabilia and direct visitors to the Postbox to Space. A marker can be added to Google Maps, as well, attracting travelers looking for an out-of-the-ordinary souvenir.
“We want for it to be a beacon within Van Horn, where all the travelers coming through, all the hotels, all the students, all the kids coming up know that in this town, in this area, they too can bring their space mail, drop it in the box, and it will be returned to them or their loved ones as a space-flown keepsake right out of Van Horn,” Reinke said. “So, it’s taken that travel shop postcard and made it exponentially cooler.”
Also discussed in this meeting
Hearing and adoption of budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022
Commercial development opportunities, including suggestions for possible adjustments to the Town’s water moratorium to help move business development forward
Advertisement for a grant manager to write the grant for Project Downtown improvements, including access pathways, sidewalks and lighting
Contract with David Holguin for the downtown parking lot redesign moves forward; design process expected to take nine weeks