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SpaceX & Mars & Explosions & Injuries:  It’s Not Just Where We’re Going, It’s How We Get There and Who Pays the Price

By Patricia Burke of Safe Tech International 

“We’ve arranged a global civilization, which… profoundly depend(s) on science and technology. We’ve also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a recipe for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.” – Carl Sagan

On November 6, Americans heard optimistic news reports that “SpaceX’s Starship Rocket Could Fly Again in the Coming Weeks.” Gizmodo reported, “SpaceX is preparing to launch its Starship rocket for the second time, aiming for mid-November for another flight test of its launch vehicle after the first one didn’t go so well. It’s been over six months since Starship lifted off for the very first time, a problematic debut that has kept the rocket grounded since then. But now SpaceX claims that the second test flight of its megarocket could launch as early as mid-November, “pending regulatory approval.”

SpaceX Pending Approval:  “If you’re able to build a rocket faster than the government can regulate it, that’s upside down, and that needs to be addressed. So we think some regulatory reforms are needed.”

Reporting on the upcoming launch, a Washington Post article noted, “Before the world’s largest rocket blew up its launchpad on lift off, scattering debris and shrapnel into the Texas shoreline, before it started tumbling and exploded in midair, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk had a prediction on how the first test flight of his Starship rocket would go: ‘excitement guaranteed. Now, more than six months later — after the first Starship flight spawned an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, a lawsuit by environmentalists and hope by NASA officials that Musk’s towering, stainless-steel creation will be reliable enough to one day carry the next astronauts to the surface of the moon — SpaceX is getting ready to launch Starship again.

The FAA still has to issue a launch license, but SpaceX recently said in a statement that Starship “could launch as soon as mid-November, pending regulatory approval.” NASA officials have said they are eager for SpaceX to renew testing.

The company has added a water suppression system to its launchpad, which should help dampen the thunderous vibrations caused by the rocket’s staggering 33 first-stage engines. It has also added a new way for the stages of the rocket to separate, and it’s run multiple engine tests to continue to understand how they will perform in flight.

(Not noted, how much water is required? Hopefully not on the same scale as the water required to suppress Tesla vehicle fires? See: Firefighters have to blast 40 times more water at burning Tesla than other cars)

The significance of the test flight goes well beyond the combustible violence of rocketry as performance art. It is a key milestone for SpaceX as it tries to, once again, upend the space industry, and for NASA as well. The space agency is investing $4 billion into the development of the rocket and spacecraft, and it has placed the vehicle at the center of its campaign to return astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972.

While future moon-bound astronauts will launch on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and fly to the moon in the Orion capsule, Starship is the spacecraft that is supposed ferry them to and from the lunar surface. Officially, NASA’s plan is to land astronauts there by 2025. But that timeline is likely to slip, perhaps significantly. One of the concerns is that Starship requires its propellant tank to be refilled while in Earth’s orbit by a fleet of Starship tankers in an immensely complicated choreography. None of those tankers have been launched — or built. And before NASA allows its astronauts to board Starship, SpaceX will have had to have flown the vehicle many times to prove its reliability.

SpaceX has been grounded since the first test flight in April. That flight sent chunks of the launchpad into nearby wetlands and along the shoreline, though no one was injured. The FAA said in a recent statement that it closed the safety portion of its investigation focusing “on issues that affect public health and safety of property.” The environmental portion, done in consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service, is not yet complete, the FAA said. “We have not made a final license determination. We will let you know when that day comes,” Steve Kulm, an FAA spokesman, said in a statement to The Washington Post on Thursday.

The delays have frustrated SpaceX. “We’ve been ready to fly for a few weeks now,” Tim Hughes, SpaceX’s senior vice president, recently told The Post. “And we’d very much like the government to be able to move as quickly as we are. If you’re able to build a rocket faster than the government can regulate it, that’s upside down, and that needs to be addressed. So we think some regulatory reforms are needed.”SpaceX is gearing up for the second flight of Starship | The Spokesman-Review

The NASA video of the earlier explosion in July of 2022 is here.

Not everyone is excited by the news of the pending launch, or by SpaceX’s demand for faster regulatory approval, particularly due to the company’s recently revealed culture regarding workplace safety. Less airplay and news coverage has been devoted to the alarming Reuters investigation At SpaceX, worker injuries soar in Elon Musk’s rush to Mars, published Nov. 10th, than announcements of the upcoming launch.

The Other SpaceX News Story: At SpaceX, worker injuries soar in Elon Musk’s rush to Mars. “Leading an urgent quest to create a refuge in space from a dying Earth, while harming workers and destroying nature”

 “SpaceX employees say they’re paying the price for the billionaire’s push to colonize space at breakneck speed.”

“Reuters documented at least 600 previously unreported workplace injuries at Musk’s rocket company: crushed limbs, amputations, electrocutions, head and eye wounds and one death. SpaceX employees say they’re paying the price for the billionaire’s push to colonize space at breakneck speed.”

“The facility had a worker-injury rate six times the space-industry average in 2022.”

“”…workers are just disposable to them.”

“Through interviews and government records, the news organization documented at least 600 injuries of SpaceX workers since 2014. Many were serious or disabling. The records included reports of more than 100 workers suffering cuts or lacerations, 29 with broken bones or dislocations, 17 whose hands or fingers were “crushed,” and nine with head injuries, including one skull fracture, four concussions and one traumatic brain injury. The cases also included five burns, five electrocutions, eight accidents that led to amputations, 12 injuries involving multiple unspecified body parts, and seven workers with eye injuries. Others were relatively minor, including more than 170 reports of strains or sprains.”

“Current and former employees said such injuries reflect a chaotic workplace where often under-trained and overtired staff routinely skipped basic safety procedures as they raced to meet Musk’s aggressive deadlines for space missions.”

“Musk himself at times appeared cavalier about safety on visits to SpaceX sites: Four employees said he sometimes played with a novelty flamethrower and discouraged workers from wearing safety yellow because he dislikes bright colors.”

“Some SpaceX engineers say they relish collaborating with creative coworkers in an environment with little bureaucracy. “There’s a certain amount of red tape that SpaceX avoids, which allows it to move faster” than NASA or private competitors, said Chris Cunnington, a former engineer in McGregor, Texas. He said he believed SpaceX struck a good balance between speed and safety.”

Carson worked at the Brownsville site as a welder in 2019 and 2020 and returned as a production supervisor in 2021 and 2022. He said some employees took Adderall, the stimulant typically used to treat attention-deficit disorder, without a prescription. Others fell asleep in bathrooms, said Carson and three other current or former Brownsville workers.” “To speed work and cut costs, SpaceX started manufacturing rockets in tents next to an undeveloped Gulf of Mexico beach. Workers welded rocket parts up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, often in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the SpaceX workers said. When overcome by heat, they were given IV fluids and sent back to work. When high winds disrupted the work, supervisors shut the tents, closing off ventilation that is essential for safe welding, according to the six current and former workers. OSHA warns that welding stainless steel can generate a highly toxic, cancer-causing dust.”

“SpaceX shouldn’t be exempt from protecting workers from being injured or killed,” Barab said, “just because they’re doing innovative work.”

“Other current and former employees at the company’s Brownsville site, which had the highest 2022 injury rate, said the company’s disdain for structured processes came at a high cost to workers.”

“Current and former employees said such injuries reflect a chaotic workplace where often under-trained and overtired staff routinely skipped basic safety procedures as they raced to meet Musk’s aggressive deadlines for space missions.”

“SpaceX, founded by Musk more than two decades ago, takes the stance that workers are responsible for protecting themselves, according to more than a dozen current and former employees, including a former senior executive.”

“The lax safety culture, more than a dozen current and former employees said, stems in part from Musk’s disdain for perceived bureaucracy and a belief inside SpaceX that it’s leading an urgent quest to create a refuge in space from a dying Earth.” Source

(Note that the employee union advocacy movement in the United States developed due to abuses in the workplace. CNN reported in Sept. 2023, “Workers have attempted to organize at Tesla at least three different times. But the company, led by Elon Musk, has been difficult for unions to break into because of weak protections for labor organizing in the United States; Tesla’s aggressive tactics; and Tesla’s strategy of granting factory workers stock options, a rarity in the auto industry.” “Tesla will go to extraordinary lengths to prevent unions,” Logan said.)

Boca Raton Shoreline: “‘Elon Always Said This was the Place to Launch Rockets Because There’s Nothing Here, That it’s Just a Big Wasteland’

In June 2021, Texas Monthly reported, Elon Musk Is Turning Boca Chica Into a Space-Travel Hub. Not Everyone Is Starstruck.“‘Elon always said this was the place to launch rockets because there’s nothing here, that it’s just a big wasteland,’ she says. ‘But that’s just not true. It’s an amazing place for shorebirds. It’s got to be one of the best places for shorebirds in the country.’

Much of the land here is part of the 10,680-acre Boca Chica tract of the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. Kemp’s ridley turtles, the most endangered sea turtles in the world, nest on the beaches; dolphins swim in the nearby Laguna Madre. The only remaining breeding population of ocelots in the United States lives here. The last confirmed sighting of a jaguarundi in the U.S. happened nearby, in 1986, and there are rumors some may remain.

It is the birds, though, that set Boca Chica apart: egrets, falcons, pelicans, plovers, sandpipers, sparrows, and warblers, among others. There are many species of birds in the Rio Grande Valley that can’t be found anywhere else in the U.S. But it’s a hard time for shorebirds up and down the Gulf Coast. Too much development, too many vehicles, a changing climate. The Boca Chica portion of the wildlife refuge is intended to provide a sanctuary.”  – Texas Monthly

As Texas Monthly explains, the July explosion was not the first experimental launch failure. “Perhaps in the distant future historians in far-flung corners of the solar system will note that the twenty-first-century Texas space program did not get off to a particularly strong start. The first proper test of the Starship, the (aspirationally) reusable rocket offered by the SpaceX corporation and launched from the southern tip of the Lone Star State, took place on December 9, 2020. The rocket climbed some 41,000 feet, halted as it was supposed to, and returned to its landing pad—much too rapidly. Crunch. The second test, in February, crunched too. The next, on March 3, appeared to land mostly intact but exploded eight minutes later. On March 30, the fourth test didn’t even make it back to the pad: near the apogee of its flight, it blew up with a calamitous boom, spreading shrapnel more than five miles afield. “Looks like we’ve had another exciting test,” announced the sheepish narrator on SpaceX’s official livestream. “Flying debris and pieces of Starship; there’s stuff smoking on the ground in front of the camera!” said the host of a privately run livestream, one of many catering to the company’s fans, its lens pointed at the landing pad in the town of Boca Chica as steel chunks rained down with frightening velocity.”Texas Monthly

Source: Photos from the SpaceX debris field – ESG Hound See more: Boca Chica, TX and Lower Rio Grande Wildlife Reserve and Texas State Park Images taken by the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program following an initial launch of the Starship Super Heavy on 4/20/2023.
Boca Chica, TX and Lower Rio Grande Wildlife Reserve and Texas State Park | Flickr

Debris Raining Down

In September 2016, Spaceflight 101 reported, SpaceX Rocket Parts Rain Down over Indonesia. “Large rocket parts rained down over a pair of small Indonesian islands on Monday when the second stage of a Falcon 9 rocket launched earlier this year fell from orbit and, at least to some extent, survived its fiery re-entry over the island of Java. At least two sizeable tanks were reported falling from the sky around 10 Western Indonesian Time in the Sumenep Regency on the eastern end of Madura Island located north-east of Java. The tanks landed on the small islands of Giliraja and Giligenting, causing damage to an animal enclosure but luckily leaving the animals and all locals in the area unharmed. The timing and location of the debris sighting is consistent with the uncontrolled re-entry of the second stage of a Falcon 9 rocket launched in August of this year.

Given the extremely high speed of the object at Entry Interface, air in front of the vehicle is compressed, creating a shock wave layer in which molecules are separated into ions and temperatures rise to the extreme. The shock wave layer forming just in front of the spacecraft and any separated components leads to considerable heating that causes the incineration of the majority of its structure – especially for rocket bodies that consist to a large part of hollow tank assemblies. The mechanical deceleration experienced during re-entry can be up to 20Gs, further crushing the structural components and causing the break-up of the spacecraft. Temperatures reached during re-entry can melt most metal types and the majority of fragments created on entry fully burn up, leaving a cloud of dust in the upper atmosphere. However, dense components such as pressurant tanks and engine components can survive re-entry and reach the ground. Similar objects were found in Brazil after the re-entry of a Falcon 9 rocket stage.

According to reports by locals, at least four objects related to the Falcon 9 stage were discovered, two of them in shallow waters near the coast. Photos shared by Indonesian media outlets show charred objects of different shapes and sizes, and reports also indicate that a sonic boom associated with the re-entry was heard. Monday’s incident was a rare re-entry event over a populated area, showcasing the danger space debris can pose to human life and property and illustrating the importance of mitigation techniques such as deorbiting spent rocket stages or bringing sizeable objects to a controlled re-entry over remote areas.” –SpaceX Rocket Parts Rain Down over Indonesia – Falcon 9 – JCSat-16 | Spaceflight101

The 2021 SpaceX Protest: Satellites, Rockets, and 5G on Earth and in Sky; What is the Cost to Health and the Environment?

Safe Tech International and other advocacy groups delivered an open letter and held a protest at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA in March of 2021. The video promoting the event is still relevant except for the increase in the number of satellites quoted.

Video Production and Editing: Amber Yang; Event Sponsored by Safe Tech International, Americans for Responsible Technology, Children’s Health Defense, Environmental Health Trust, Moms Across America, Stop 5G on Earth and in Space International Appeal, Stop 5G International, 5G Free California,

Arthur Firstenburg of the Cellular Phone Task Force tracks satellite applications. The most recent tally, published Nov. 1, 2023: One Million Satellites Planned. As noted by Safe Tech International, “Dangers posed by satellites include space debriscollisions, depletion of the ozone layer; risk of devastating cyber attacks, pollution from rocket launches and from “dead” satellites burning up in the atmosphere; plutonium and uranium spills from nuclear-powered satellites and space vehicles; increase in already harmful levels of EMF radiation, permanent compromise of the night sky, interference with astronomical research and weather forecasting; effects on wildlife, yet more tracking, surveillance and erosion of privacy; vastly more energy consumption, and the “promise” of increasing the lethality of war.” – Safe Tech International

Unpacking a Few Concepts

Source; At SpaceX, worker injuries soar in Elon Musk’s rush to Mars (reuters.com)

“The lax safety culture, more than a dozen current and former employees said, stems in part from Musk’s disdain for perceived bureaucracy and a belief inside SpaceX that it’s leading an urgent quest to create a refuge in space from a dying Earth.”

Regarding SpaceX’s demand for regulatory reform and faster approvals, a growing portion of the awakened public sees the tech industry’s sense of entitlement to speed and lax regulation as unrealistic, ungrounded, and unsafe.

Humanity, and every species, have co-evolved for eons to live on the Earth. To imply that a refuge can be successfully created on the Moon or Mars by SpaceX, when it cannot operate in harmony with the Laws of Nature, and with its institutionalized lack of respect for human rights, community rights, employee safety, and the Rights of Nature, is wildly illogical.

Rather than assuming that the Earth is dying, disjointed tech industries are ignoring the damage that they themselves are inflicting. This includes the alteration of the Earth’s electromagnetic environment, as noted here in January 2022 by Arthur Firstenberg:

“The pure Yang forms the heaven, and the turbid Yin forms the earth. The Qi of the
earth ascends and turns into clouds, while the Qi of the heaven descends and turns
into rain.” So the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine described the global
electric circuit 2,400 years ago — the circuit that is generated by the ionosphere and
that flows perpetually between the Yang (positive) heaven and the Yin (negative)
earth. The circuit that connects us to earth and sky and that flows through our
meridians giving us life and health. A circuit that must not be polluted with
frequencies emitted by a hundred thousand satellites, some of whose beams will
have an effective power of up to ten million watts. That is sheer insanity, and so far
no one is paying attention. No one is even asking whether the satellites have
anything to do with the profound and simultaneous decline, planetwide, in the
number of insects and birds, and with the pandemic of sleep disorders and fatigue
that so many are experiencing. [] no one is paying attention to the holocaust descending from space.”
441449-Low-Earth-Orbit-Satellites.pdf (cellphonetaskforce.org)

Kate Kheel of Safe Tech International and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space observed, “SpaceX policy toward workers is a microcosm of how the entire industry sees the public and indeed all life. Their mission to “go to Mars as fast as possible and ‘save humanity’ permeates every part of the company” and all life on Earth. The Reuter’s article quotes an employee saying, “The company justifies casting aside anything that could stand in the way of accomplishing that goal, including worker safety.” …and we might add: …including the safety and well-being of all life.”

Reuters reported, “SpaceX shouldn’t be exempt from protecting workers from being injured or killed,” Barab said, “just because they’re doing innovative work.” Unfortunately, electric vehicle and so-called green energy advocates often dismiss criticism of Tesla and Musk based on the assumption that he is unfairly targeted due to his success challenging the fossil fuel industries with electric vehicles. Ignoring mining, disposal, and other exploitation issues, the green energy movement has fallen prey to the belief that the ends justify the means. Along with Musk.

Many informed activists recognize that the “light regulatory touch” towards Elon Musk is derived from his work for the military and the war industry.

Dig Deeper

Paris Marx has been responsibly and accurately investigating Elon Musk on the platforms “Tech Won’t Save Us” and “Disconnect.”

In 2021, Paris interviewed Eric Roesch in SpaceX’s Regulatory Evasion Has Consequences. “Eric Roesch is an expert in environmental compliance and risk assessment who writes about intersection of capitalism, markets and greenwashing. Eric wrote about the damage the Starship launch was going to have, SpaceX’s violation of the Clean Water Act, and Elon Musk’s general regulatory evasion. He also shared [] photos of the aftermath of the Starship launch.” – Source

See: Elon Musk Unmasked: Origins of an Oligarch (Part 1) 40 minutes

Elon Musk Unmasked: Creating the Genius Myth (Part 2) – Episodes – Tech Won’t Save Us (techwontsave.us) 45 minutes

Elon Musk Unmasked: Building An Empire (Part 3) 53 minutes

Elon Musk Unmasked: Shaping the Future (Part 4) 65 minutes “We can learn more through the Hubble horoscope. We don’t have to colonize these other places.”

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” – Carl SaganThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Join the conversation.

The ends do not justify the means. We are not a multi-planetary species. We have the ability and responsibility to seek the deeper truth and invite Light to prevail, here, on the abundant and beautiful Earth, where we can and do live, now.

Action: The Appeal — 5G Space Appeal

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