Washington, Sep 6: Rising sea levels caused by melting ice caps could threaten NASA launch sites along US coastlines, the US space agency has warned. In the coming years, launch facilities at Florida's Kennedy Space Centre and other places may need to be retrofitted or even moved inland, NASA said.
"Every NASA centre has its own set of vulnerabilities, and some are more at risk than others. But sea level rise is a very real challenge for all of the centres along the coast," said NASA climatologist Cynthia Rosenzweig.
NASA says more than half of its infrastructure stands within 16 feet of sea level. That includes more than USD 32 billion in laboratories, launch pads, airfields, testing facilities, data centres and other stuff - plus 60,000 employees - from Florida to California, 'CNN' reported.
At Kennedy Space Centre, the starting point for almost every NASA human space flight, the launch pads and buildings sit just a few hundred feet from the Atlantic Ocean.
The same is true at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, an active rocket launch site for NASA's science and exploration missions.
Langley Research Centre is on the Back River in Hampton, Virginia, near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay while Ames Research Centre borders the south end of the San Francisco Bay.
Johnson Space Centre in suburban Houston sits on Clear Lake, an inlet of Galveston Bay. All of them stand between 5 and 40 feet above mean sea level - higher than NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, which sits below sea level behind earthen levees.
After Hurricane Katrina, Michoud employees had to pump more than a billion gallons of water out of the facility, NASA said.
According to NASA, it will 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.