“Science Takes Off”

This pitch letter is part of The Open Notebook’s Pitch Database, which contains 290 successful pitches to a wide range of publications. To share your own successful pitch, please fill out this form.

The Story

“Science Takes Off”
by Sarah Scoles
Popular Science, October 20, 2015

The Pitch

Space Travel meets Mojave

Slick commercial spaceflight companies do their work from a “space port” in a run-down town in the remote desert: Mojave, pop. 4,238.

Mojave began as a railroad construction center in 1876 and soon became the endpoint for the 20-mule teams carrying borax westward. Now, cutting-edge spacecrafts’ blastoffs (and, sometimes, their explosions) reverberate off sage-speckled hills around it. But downtown buildings are boarded up. Time has jackhammered sidewalks. Thirty-three percent of residents live in poverty; 26 percent are unemployed. But they live next-door to young, well-off engineers who moved there just for space-work. The culture clash isn’t hard to imagine.

A city-led project called “Revitalize Mojave” plans to make the town better for both groups. Its timeline details the city’s Cinderella transformation into a vibrant live-work-play place, with farmers’ markets! Boutiques! More public trash cans! But is this a pipe dream, and will the Dollar General still be the social hub in 2025? And what does it mean for a wealth-based tech industry to invade a town without helping create the infrastructure to boost that town?

This article would enter the world of Mojave, talking to the Space Port’s CEO (Stuart Witt) [who once publicly suggested the town be bulldozed and built-over as a “playground” for the engineers], a sample of engineers, and a sample of long-time residents. The article would paint a vivid profile of place and of the current space industry, and it would investigate how technological industries shape communities. It would be like those North Dakota oil boom-town stories, but for space travel. It’s got tech, spacecraft, and their influence on actual humans and communities.

Skip to content