My Christmas labels project was sidelined by my Christmas list. My family likes to be organized and conduct our Christmas shopping via wish lists, and we try to get them settled way in advance. But I like to be careful and thoughtful about my list, and it tends to take a lot of research and planning, so that was what took up my time last week. Also work still hasn’t calmed down, so my evenings were especially short. But the Christmas list is basically done now, so this week I can go back to the Christmas labels.
Thanks to SpaceX and the FAA, my support for the space economy collided with my newfound support for the environment. In the middle of last week I ran across this tweet that sent me down a rabbit hole of SpaceX criticism on both technical and environmental grounds. The inciting incident was that SpaceX needs an FAA license for their future Starship launches, and the FAA conducted an environmental assessment and opened the draft to public comment, ending in some virtual town halls a few weeks ago (see this coverage by The Verge).
ESG Hound tweeted links to a list of submissions from environmental groups, to an article on complaints from the Fish and Wildlife Service, and to ESG Hound’s own findings posted on their Substack. This was not easy to hear, but I made myself face facts and listen.
Further digging led me to a YouTube channel called Common Sense Skeptic that has its own letter to the FAA and a long playlist of videos criticizing the Starship program. He’s not without his own critics, however (I found Astro Kiwi and Ben Pearson).
Overall the controversy reinforces my impression that Elon Musk is somewhat reckless, and if these concerns have merit, I do hope the FAA has the fortitude to deny the license, even if it sets our plans back to return to the moon.