When it comes to its environmental effects on Earth, space exploration is a dirty business.
NASA says it could take a century to clean up the chemical messes left behind by launching shuttles and rockets into space. The liftoffs have created plumes of carcinogenic chemicals in the sandy soils beneath Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral in Florida.
NASA said it will spend $96 million over the next thirty years cleaning up the toxic goo at Kennedy Space Center, while the Air Force announced they'll spend $50 million cleaning up a similar mess at Cape Canaveral. Overall, the cleanup efforts could cost $1 billion and take almost a century to complete.
"In the past, back in Apollo, the normal disposal of the solvent cleaning was down the drain … out the back door," said Rosaly Santos-Ebaugh, Kennedy's remediation program manager, told USA Today.
According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, there are around two square miles of contaminated soil and groundwater around Kennedy Space Center. The most common contaminant is a chlorinated solvent called trichloroethylene — aka "trike" — is found at levels thousands of times higher than allowable under the Federal Drinking Water Standards. Trike pollution in groundwater can potentially cause birth defects and cancer.
"So we can put a man on the moon, but we don't have all the regulations in place so we can understand the effect of some of the chemicals that were disposed of," said NASA scientist Jackie Quinn.
No doubt! For all of the brainpower that goes into exploring the universe, you'd think they could reserve some for making sure we don't irreversibly ruin the place we actually live.