SpaceX's first orbital Starship launch attempt saw the most powerful rocket ever built soar to epic new heights.
And what goes up must come back down.
"Getting reports from multiple people now of 'particulates' raining down in areas of Port Isabel after the nearby explosion of the SpaceX rocket stack Starship/Superheavy," NPR reporter Pablo de la Rosa tweeted, accompanied by pictures of grit-covered surfaces.
Unfortunately, given the location of SpaceX's testing facilities near Boca Chica, Texas, local wildlife could feel the full brunt of the failure as well.
It's especially unfortunate because the surrounding area that SpaceX chose for its base back in 2014 is a unique and diverse ecosystem. The nearby Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge is home to a number of migratory birds that cover thousands of miles to lay eggs there.
Yet testing at the site has been sending entire flocks of birds scattering.
Audubon Texas calls the surrounding area some of Texas' "most pristine shorebird habitat," with the American Bird Conservancy warning last summer that SpaceX's continued efforts in the area to develop its Starship will continue to harm endangered birds.
As Texas Public Radio reported earlier this week — just two days before the latest explosion — SpaceX is doing considerable damage to the nesting habitats, like leaving behind destructive ATV tracks and giant pieces of blown-up Starship prototypes that are littering algae flats, important feeding grounds.
"Having that many plovers half a mile from this launch pad sending off the largest rockets known to mankind right now really makes you wonder what's going to happen to those guys for sure," Justin LeClaire, a conservation biologist with the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, told Texas Public Radio.
The Federal Aviation Administration concluded its environmental assessment of SpaceX's Starship launch program last year, culminating in a 183-page document, which lists more than 75 mitigation measures SpaceX had to comply with.
These measures included a wide variety of requested changes, from limiting noise levels to hiring biologists to find ways to minimize the impacts on local wildlife.
It's still unclear, however, how or whether these mitigation efforts have helped protect the local wildlife since then.
While SpaceX and Musk are hellbent on making humanity interplanetary by developing the most powerful rocket ever built, their repeated launch attempts are clearly leaving a lasting mark on the local environment.
And that's a big price to pay, especially considering the simple fact that the rocket could've been developed in a way that didn't involve countless explosions, as NASA's Space Launch System goes to show.
Besides, it didn't have to happen in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary.
More on the launch: Did Elon's Childish Obsession With 4/20 Lead to Today's Starship Explosion?
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