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SpaceX has big plans. Lots of them. From global, high-speed internet powered by thousands of satellites to Mars colonization, there’s no shortage of ideas coming out of the company and its founder, Elon Musk. 

SpaceX is also in a position to make a big impact, whether good or bad. The prospect of affordable space travel could have major long-term effects on society, the economy, and the environment, and the results can be hard to predict. Let’s explore each one in detail. 

Social Impact

One of the company’s more recent and ambitious endeavors is to provide satellite internet service to the entire planet. To power this global network, the company has received approval to put 12,000 satellites in orbit around the planet – a goal that could truly change the world. Madison Crader, an internet specialist at SatelliteInternet.com, explains, “Providing internet to the globe will revolutionize not only economies but also education and social support for individuals everywhere. It can give a voice online to billions of people who currently have no access to the internet, helping raise awareness of social issues and how we can improve everyone’s quality of life.”

Part of the deal is that at least half of the satellites need to be operational by the mid-2020s, so this network is coming soon, and the possibilities that global internet access opens up for both individuals and larger businesses and organizations are huge. The sheer number of satellites in orbit could make space a more dangerous place for manned flights, though, so this is something the company will need to watch out for.

SpaceX’s (relatively) affordable space flight may also help speed up the process of getting the average citizen into space. Also called space tourism, the prospect is currently available only to the ultra-rich, but with costs dropping significantly because of the reusable nature of the rockets, the company could help speed up the process of getting you and me into orbit.  

Lastly, Elon Musk’s goal of colonizing Mars could have major implications for the future of the human race. While it’s still a long way from becoming reality, plans are in the works to send people to the Red Planet, a mission to Mars, and a colony could follow once that mission is successful. This opens up possibilities for relieving overpopulation here on Earth, as well as adding a whole new dimension to the idea of relocating for a job.

Economic Impact

The drastically reduced cost of launching a SpaceX rocket could also have big impacts on the future of our economy. As the process of getting people and infrastructure to space gets cheaper, more companies will be able to take advantage of the final frontier. Experts predict that accessible space flight could have economic impacts on par with the PC and internet booms of the ’80s and ’90s. Space tourism could even create a whole new industry with jobs to go with it. And let’s not forget that global internet network and the competition that could generate.

Environmental Impact

Rocket launches could be rough on the environment. Now, SpaceX rockets are significantly better for the environment than more traditional rockets or vehicles like the Space Shuttle because the rockets are reusable (in theory). However, Carly Cassella at ScienceAlert.com notes that some recent events show Musk may be less engaged in protecting the environment than the company wants you to believe with debris being left or lost without much care. “If Musk wants to make reusable rockets a thing, he better start amping up his company’s recycling efforts,” Cassella warns.

On top of lost debris, the fuel burned puts out a lot of carbon emissions, which are detrimental to the ozone layer. The SpaceX rockets still burn roughly 440 tons of kerosene and liquid oxygen per stage-1 launch – in the case of the Falcon Heavy. And while that might be better than old-school rockets, the company has plans to launch a lot of them. Roughly one or more a month, in fact. These emissions could add up over time, especially with the atmosphere already compromised.

Whatever your feelings on SpaceX and the CEO Elon Musk, it’s clear the two are set to have an important impact on the future of our planet. The next decade is going to be an exciting one as these plans unfold and humanity takes its next big steps forward.

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