Legislator presents spaceport idea to Black Belt committee

Rockets, bound for space, could be taking off from just outside of Selma in the future.

State Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) is leading the charge for Alabama to land one of nearly a dozen spaceports to be licensed by the federal government. Dial presented his proposal to the Black Belt Commission Infrastructure Committee meeting Thursday.

“I got to thinking, a spaceport, what in the devil is a spaceport and why do you need one?” Dial said. “I did a little research and found out the federal government is going to license nine to 10 spaceports in America.”

Dial helped create the Alabama Spaceport Authority last year, which oversees planning. The next step, Dial said, is to submit a grant proposal for approximately $400,000 through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The grant would be used to conduct a feasibility study and determine possible locations for the spaceport.

Before the grant application can be made, Dial said a bill must be passed in the Alabama Legislature allowing ADECA to make the application.

He explained spaceports would be used for commercial travel to space, for personal travel and freight, and potential be a tool for economic development.

“Look at what an international airport has done for Atlanta,” he said. “Atlanta today has as many people in Atlanta as we have in Alabama.”

Perhaps one factor working in Alabama’s favor is the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Dial said he couldn’t guarantee that a spaceport would be located in the Black Belt because other legislative officials would lobby for their districts, but did say rural areas would be more suited for spaceports than metropolitan areas.

“Everybody wants to feel like they have a fair shot, but it has to be in a somewhat remote area,” he said. “It can’t be in downtown Birmingham because you’re going to have lots of noise and that will be a problem.”

He said the Black Belt and South Alabama would make ideal candidates for the spaceport because of their rural nature, but regardless of whether spaceflight out of Selma becomes a reality, Dial said the future is certain to include personal space travel.

“We used to read about space in the funny pages and comic books, but it is going to happen,” he said.