I feel so much disgust when I think about Elon Musk’s giant, overweight rocket blowing up and blasting the wildlife and natural areas for miles and miles. Who the f____ has the right to do that? And what the f___ was the U.S. federal government thinking in giving the billionaire man-child the go ahead?
OK, breathe Cyl. I will now endeavor to offer some information and ideas rather than rage.
Here’s the quasi-good news. Several environmental organizations have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for allowing the rocket launch to go forward. The groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, American Bird Conservancy, and Surfrider Foundation, claim that the FAA broke numerous environmental laws and conservation acts when it allowed the launch the proceed.
In case you missed it, the rocket, the heaviest ever assembled, was launched from a site in Boca Chica, Texas. A few minutes after launch, it exploded, spewing concrete, metal and other debris thousands of feet into environmentally protected areas. It blasted craters into mudflats and sand dunes and scorched bird nests. Other trash crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion started a 3.5-acre fire in a nearby state park and a debris cloud of concrete and dust particulate matter stretched as far as six and a half miles.
Even prior to the explosion, the launch itself sent wreckage crashing into the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding wildlife habitats. Debris was reported in Port Isabel, several miles north of the launchpad.
And then there was the nearly unthinkably intense noise. The Starship rocket launch was likely the loudest ever, perhaps the equivalent of 10,000 aircraft engines; on top of that the explosion. People up to eight miles away could clearly hear the event. Residents in Port Isabel reported doors and windows shaking and even shattering as a result of the noise and vibration.
Can you imagine what that must be like for the birds, dolphins and whales, other wild animals, and pets and domestic animals for that matter? Most non-human species have far more acute hearing than humans. Just consider how traumatic it must be to get slammed with a prolonged, deafening, literally earth-shaking explosion of violent noise in your living room.
The SpaceX facility in Boca Chica sits in the middle of public lands including a National Wildlife Refuge, two State Parks, a State Wildlife Management Area, and a State Coastal Preserve. Bird species from the Central and Mississippi migratory flyways converge there. It is essential habitat for numerous federally protected endangered species, many of which, such as the critically endangered ocelot are considered sacred by the areas indigenous peoples. As far as I’m concerned all of that is far more sacred than some billionaire’s ego.
SpaceX and Musk have plans to conduct multiple “Super Heavy” launches from the Boca Chica Launch Site. At least for now those have been put on hold pending environmental review. For god’s sake what really needs reviewing? Wildlife experts say repeated launch events will likely permanently drive away some of the bird species that nest in the area and negatively impact already endangered species.
My anger and disgust about this event is driven by heartache over the violence inflicted on nature. It’s also driven by the blatant display of arrogance and insanity at the core of our American corporatocracy – a billionaire getting special treatment and help from our federal government to play with his oversize, overly-consumptive toys at the expense of nature and neighboring communities.
I know there are many who lauded this endeavor, who are all in for the advancement of space exploration. Hell, I myself am fascinated with space, both the science and the science fiction. However, I am more fascinated by and concerned about the planet I actually live on.
In the lawsuit, the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement it was, "vital that we protect life on Earth even as we look to the stars in this modern era of spaceflight." It is utterly ridiculous that such a point even needs to be stated, but alas, that’s life in a plutocratic corporatocracy.
I am grateful to the environmental organizations who filed the lawsuit. I’d love to see SpaceX get hit with one as well, even if it might be futile to go up against that uber-wealth. Even better, I’d love to see my country and my species wake up and begin to genuinely value the magnificent and irreplaceable planet right under our feet.
Here’s a good article from Public Radio for Northeast Texas, that includes information and photos from the blast site.
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Thanks for the thoughts. Last night I watched Nova's Saving the Wright Whale. After most of the story, recounting whale's change in feeding patterns and areas, and the entanglements with fishing gear, and the attempts to limit the damage to the competing interests as we go forward, a fisherman testing new (expensive) equipment, made a succinct and cogent analysis that applies not only to the dilemma going forward for his industry, but the dilemma that faces us all. He simply said that after years of relying on government to fix things, he came to the realization that fixing things is going to take everybody. Simplistic stated, the implications of that statement require pardigm shifts for just about every one and everything...a very tall order.
I'm thankful you've shared this information as it's a side of space exploration I've not considered. And our need to go to space is an incredibly important topic for me (I think my own last article was about the reasons I believe we should pursue it). Things always end up being more complex than one initially imagines them to be and space exploration is no different. Thank you for helping me to establish a more holistic perspective.