Rocket engines emit reactive gases that cause ozone molecules to break apart, though each variety of rocket propellant has wreaks a different level of damage. Solid propellants, for example, are more damaging than liquid ones. Rockets also leave behind trace amounts of soot and aluminum oxide in the upper and middle stratosphere.
Finally, space journeys leave behind debris, such as jettisoned components and human waste. NASA estimates that there are more than 500,000 piecces of debris greater than one centimeter in diameter currently orbiting the planet. In other words, what may eventually form a celestial junkyard.
Most opinions are that space flight is more harmful to the astronauts than the environment. Due to the lack of gravity in space, astronauts lose about 15% of their muscle mass and 20% or more loss in muscle perfomance. Aerobics is available on the space shuttles, but it is still difficult to avoid muscle fatigue for long periods of time in zero gravity.
Space flight is extremely detrimental to the environment because of the pollutants it releases into the atmosphere. It has been estimated that traveling by space shuttle is more than six times more polluting than flying in a plane in a transoceanic flight and eleven times more polluting than traveling by car. This is due to the large amount of CO2 emitted (6.6 pounds for every 9.3 miles traveled), as well as nitrogen oxides and water vapor.
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