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NASA Issues Impact Statement For Constellation Program

Manned Spaceflight's Effect On Environmetal Under Scrutiny

NASA has issued a draft environmental impact statement on potential environmental impacts associated with the agency's upcoming Constellation manned spaceflight program, intended to return humans to the moon by 2020. The agency says its Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement concludes localized and global environmental impacts associated with implementing the Constellation Program would be comparable to past or ongoing NASA activities.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to prepare an environmental impact statement for major federal actions that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment. Federal agencies must consider potential environmental impacts of their proposed actions before deciding whether and how to proceed.

This draft examines the effects of development, testing and operation of spacecraft and support systems associated with Constellation Program activities through the early 2020s. NASA plans to use multiple government and contractor facilities in implementing the program.

The spacecraft to be developed include the Orion crew exploration vehicle, the Ares I crew launch vehicle, the Ares V cargo launch vehicle, the lunar lander, and other cargo systems. Orion, launched atop the Ares I, would be capable of docking with the International Space Station or with cargo launched to low Earth orbit by the Ares V for transit to the moon or future missions to Mars.

Since the Constellation Program will be based largely upon components and facilities used in the Space Shuttle Program, the potential environmental impacts are expected to be similar. The principal activities associated with Constellation that could result in potential environmental impacts include rocket engine tests, rocket launches, construction of new facilities and modifications to existing facilities.

In preparing this draft, NASA published a notice of intent in the Federal Register on September 26, 2006. NASA held public scoping meetings to invite input on environmental concerns of program alternatives on October 18, 2006, in Cocoa, FL; on October 20, 2006, in Washington; and on October 24, 2006, in Salt Lake City. NASA also solicited comments from federal, state, and local agencies and other interested parties. The public scoping period ended November 13, 2006.

Publicly identified issues resulting from the scoping meetings include the economic impact of the Constellation Program on local jobs near NASA centers, risks to the public through launch and reentry of the Orion spacecraft, noise associated with launch events and impacts to animal species in the Kennedy Space Center, FL area from construction and launch activities. Other issues included the socio-economic impacts of decommissioning the space shuttle and implementing the Constellation Program.

NASA will accept public comments on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement through September 2007. The final environmental impact statement is expected to be complete by Spring 2008. An appendix in the final statement will include public comments and NASA's responses. NASA expects to provide a formal record of decision for the Constellation Program in late Spring 2008.

FMI: Read The NASA Draft Statement

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