Shuttle Launch Exhaust
August 6, 2005 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Ecological impact of Space Shuttle launch exhaust. Aluminum oxide powder, hydrogen chloride, and of course, water vapor, which can form noctilucent clouds. The environmental impact is supposedly minimal.
posted by brownpau (15 comments total)
It probably is minimal.
I'd probably look the other way in case it isn't.
Call it a personal bias, but I'd rather be eating rocket fuel than agent orange or napalm.
posted by Balisong at 8:58 PM on August 6, 2005

I remember fifteen years ago when there was real concern among some about the ozone holes created. I don't think they knew then that they were so short-lived. But in general I thought then, and I think now, that environmental concerns about the Shuttle launches, while valid, are disproportionate to the concern we should have about pretty much every other environmental damage from industry and the military. And urban areas. It's annoying that people always go for the very high-profile targets.

I found this very interesting, but I don't see how it really deserves a post.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:13 PM on August 6, 2005

Even if the shuttle was the must environmentally disastrous form of transport on a mile by mile comparison ( which I don't believe it is) I would still be for it. If you want to pretend that you are environmentally friendly you have to pay at least lip service to alternative sources of energy. To be frank the space program gave many of those ideas the impetus to be realized. From a realistic standpoint killing the shuttle would kill the space program. So this article is really biting the hand that feeds you.
posted by Rubbstone at 9:32 PM on August 6, 2005

Critter casualties are light and local.

See, It wasn't that bad...
posted by Balisong at 9:50 PM on August 6, 2005

Um, it says "minimal."
posted by brownpau at 9:51 PM on August 6, 2005

No, in the fourth paragraph of your first link, it says:
Critter casualties are light and local.
To which I said:
See, It wasn't that bad...
posted by Balisong at 9:58 PM on August 6, 2005

(Oops, sorry, Balisong, my post was meant as a reply to Rubbstone's. Disadvantage of live preview, I suppose.)
posted by brownpau at 10:20 PM on August 6, 2005

I had a friend awhile back who was heavily invested in the whole business of space shuttle effects on the local environment.
The effect that a shuttle launch had on the local environment was known as 'launch kill'. Basically every living animal within a certain radius exposed to shuttle launch exhaust was killed. Bird life, alligators, local amphibians, etc, it didn't matter they all died.
When she was the head ecologist at California Fish and Game she was responsible for evaluating 'Slick 6', the Vandenburg, CA launch facility. As things turned out she gave it a failing grade and her decision, along with I'm sure many others lead to 'Slick 6's' demise.
posted by mk1gti at 10:36 PM on August 6, 2005

I think the bigger concern is airliner traffic... we have, at most, a handful of launches a year. I was in Titusville for the last one... absolutely beautiful.
posted by trinarian at 11:03 PM on August 6, 2005

And I'm saying it doesn't matter even if it was disasterous.
posted by Rubbstone at 11:14 PM on August 6, 2005

This is statistical noise compared to the ecological damage that results from a dependancy on fossil fuels.

(I don't care about the cute little bunnies.)
posted by mosch at 12:00 AM on August 7, 2005

(I don't care about the cute little bunnies.)

I do.

I care about how delicious they are, and how few restaurants serve them.

A travesty, I tell you.
posted by flaterik at 10:53 AM on August 7, 2005

It's insane that this is even given an article, that people are even thinking about it.

More environmental damage is done by car and truck exhaust in Brevard County every ten seconds than has or will be done by every launch from Cape Canaveral ever.
posted by dmd at 11:03 AM on August 7, 2005

The article fails to consider the environmental effect of extracting, refining and compressing all that fuel. Liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen doesn't just make itself, and aluminium is one of the more energy-intensive metals to refine. So maybe the launch doesn't have a long-lasting effect, but the preparations cerainly do.
posted by scruss at 12:09 PM on August 7, 2005

mt1gti: Like human beings? I find it difficult to believe that humans have never been exposed to shuttle exhaust, and I find it more difficult to believe that the chemicals could be toxic to everything except people.

The thing here about the shuttle launches that distinguishes them from other forms of transportation is that there's so few of them. We're not even up to STS mission 120 yet, meaning, unless my understanding is flawed, there hasn't been more than 120 shuttle launches to date. There are hundreds of millions of automobiles, scattered around the world, and in constant, daily use. Compared to that, the ecological effects of shuttle launches are microscopic, although of course the animals right at the launch site probably think otherwise.

As for those here not caring about fluffy animals... it is a recognized problem with wildlife conservation that so much of the energy behind it, contributions in support of it, etc, depend on anthropomorphizing animals rather than a rational view of the need to keep the environment healthy, and a moral view that other forms of life have a right to live as well as we.

But it's a lot harder to make those cases to someone who hasn't thought a great deal about conservation under these terms. (Just look how hard it is to get the general population to see how destructive the war is, and it's war for heaven's sake.) So anthropomorphizing takes place, and while essentially disingenuous, these problems are so large in the long term that I can't get too annoyed with it.
posted by JHarris at 2:21 PM on August 7, 2005

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