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Most launches from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Base drop their lower stages into the Atlantic ocean. The majority of these stages is not recovered.

What is the environmental impact on the marine ecosystem near the Florida coast?

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Generally projects and programs need to publicly file Environmental Impact Statements or Environmental Assessments, since the environmental impact of the activities at a place like Kennedy Space Center change over time.

One example is the EIS written for Constellation, which planned to drop some pretty big stuff into the drink. One paragraph from that document states:

NASA has consulted with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on essential fish habitat regarding launches of Ares vehicles from KSC (KSC 2007e). NASA has indicated to NMFS that over more than 25 years of Space Shuttle operations, there have been no documented long-term impacts to marine life or marine habitats. Similarly, the proposed Constellation Program launches are not expected to produce any measurable impacts to marine species or habitats.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for the response, but I would rather like to read a statement from an independent source. NASA is unlikely to write "We are destroying the environment and should be shut down". $\endgroup$ – Philipp Feb 12 '14 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ The process assures that the EIS is heavily reviewed by non-advocate government agencies and non-government groups. You can read more about the review process, mandated by the EPA. The link is for the final EIS, after all inputs have been considered. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Feb 12 '14 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ "Once the draft EIS is issued, NEPA provides a minimum of 45 days for Federal agencies, State and local governments, and the public to comment on it. Meetings may be held during the comment period to facilitate receiving comments directly from Federal agencies, State and Local governments, and the public. The public comment period begins upon publication of a Notice of Availability (NOA) for the draft EIS in the Federal Register. Public comments are considered in the preparation of the final EIS." $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Feb 12 '14 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, I didn't notice any mention in the EIS of the potential environmental benefits of dropping stages in the ocean. It is common to sink ships off of Florida, much larger than stages, in order to provide a growth platform for coral reefs. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Feb 13 '14 at 16:30

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