Sunday, April 30, 2023

SpaceX And The Final Frontier


The most powerful rocket ever built blasted off from its launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas, recently. News reports generally dismissed the endeavor as a failure since the rocket blew up several minutes after takeoff, even though the launch was a test and deemed at least partially successful by those who made it possible. Reports were also quick to note that the launch “rocked the earth and kicked up a billowing cloud of dust and debris, shaking homes and raining down brown grime for miles.”

One report chronicled the experience of Sharon Almaguer, who, at the time of the launch, was at home with her 80-year-old mother. Ms. Almaguer purportedly said of the launch: “It was truly terrifying.”  Really? You knew the launch was imminent. How do you fare in a thunderstorm?

Another report breathlessly stated: “In Port Isabel, a city about six miles northwest where at least one window shattered, residents were alarmed.” One window in one home near the launch site shattered? Oh, the humanity! At least the window wasn’t broken in the traditional way-- by a baseball launched from a kid’s baseball bat. Funny, I don’t recall the media obsessing over the consequences of the launch of Apollo 11. (“One giant leap for mankind, one incredibly small price to pay.”)

 And I’m sure Elon would pay to replace the window, if asked.

A article worried that companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin are planning to increase the number of rocket launches in the future, while noting that “new research” has “shown just how damaging this trend is to the environment.”

Dr. Eloise Marais, an Associate Professor in Physical Geography, said of the study she and Research Fellow Dr. Robert Ryan conducted: "We calculated air pollutant emissions from rocket launches in 2019 and extrapolated what we think a potential future space tourism industry will look like based on the companies that launched missions last year. Then we incorporated these emissions in a 3D model that represents the complex physical and chemical processes taking place in the atmosphere so that we could calculate their effects on climate."

Their conclusion? That the climate effect of soot from rocket launches is hundreds of times more damaging than earthbound sources.

Meaning? To paraphrase an old Nike slogan: “Just Don’t Do It.”

This kind of thinking is why we can’t— or won’t-- accomplish great things anymore. And why China will soon leave us in the dust, atmospheric or otherwise. To the detriment of the freedom-loving world.

Reach for the stars?

No. Reach for your facemask and stay inside. The only space we care to explore anymore is our safe one.

For centuries Americans longed for the “frontier.” Millions risked everything to get there, going west by covered wagon, all of there earthly belongings with them. Now too many long for a permanent vacation, universal basic income, and someone from the government to promise them cradle-to-grave care. And tuck them into bed at night.

Turn out the lights. The party’s over.

“The final frontier?” If “progressives” have their way, it likely won’t be space.

Unless it’s the space under our beds.



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