NASA Says: Rising Seas Threaten To Flood For Launch Sites

by Tim Higgins | Sunday, Sep 6, 2015 | 1292 views

NASA’s rockets are astounding machines, capable of blasting into space at thousands of miles/hour and withstanding temperatures twice the melting point of steel. NASA says, rising sea levels caused by melting ice caps threaten to disrupt a handful of NASA launch sites along U.S. coastlines, the space agency warns.

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In the coming years, launch facilities at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and other places may need to be retrofitted or even moved inland. Every NASA center has its own set of vulnerabilities, and some are more at risk than others,” NASA climatologist Cynthia Rosenzweig said in a recent post on one of the agency’s websites. “But sea level rise is a very real challenge for all of the centers along the coast.

In other words, NASA has a lot of people and property potentially in harm’s way, specially in a big coastal storm. NASA says that more than half of its infrastructure stands within 16 feet of sea level. That contains more than $32 billion in laboratories, launch pads, airfields, testing facilities, data centers and other stuff plus 60,000 employees from Florida to California.

Most of Kennedy, NASA’s flagship launch site, is built on coastal marshland about 5 to 10 feet above sea level. The high-tide line there has been moving landward for some time, and NASA says conservative climate models project that the sea level off Kennedy will rise 5 to 8 inches by the 2050s.

Kennedy Space Center may have decades before waves are lapping at the launch pads, coastal geologist John Jaeger of the University of Florida said in NASA’s post. “Still, when you put expensive, immovable infrastructure right along the coast, something’s eventually got to give.

In other words, NASA says it’ll need to design smarter buildings and rebuild others. In some cases, crucial laboratories, storage or assembly rooms will need to be moved to higher floors. And repairing sea walls and rebuilding sand dunes along launch pads may become part of routine maintenance at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

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