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As Elon Musk’s Starship — the largest rocket ever manufactured — successfully blasted toward the sky last month, the launch was hailed as a giant leap for SpaceX and the United States’ civilian space program.

Two hours later, once conditions were deemed safe, a team from SpaceX, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a conservation group began canvassing the fragile migratory bird habitat surrounding the launch site.

The impact was obvious.

The launch had unleashed an enormous burst of mud, stones and fiery debris across the public lands encircling Mr. Musk’s $3 billion space compound. Chunks of sheet metal and insulation were strewn across the sand flats on one side of a state park. Elsewhere, a small fire had ignited, leaving a charred patch of park grasslands — remnants from the blastoff that burned 7.5 million pounds of fuel.

Most disturbing to one member of the entourage was the yellow smear on the

Keep reading this article on The New York Times Energy & Environment.

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