Man thinks that he is so advanced just because he now has airliner jets and rockets. This idea of wanting to blast-off and jet around had its origins in Nazi-based rocketry inventions duringWWII.
This article Cleanup of Shuttle Launch Zone inspired me to research more in-depth about the environmental impact of rocketing to space. That has to also be factored into the overall cost of going into space, does it not? Who's to say it won't really take billions of $ to do a proper clean-up there? Stratospheric balloons could meet most scientific research needs, and do so at a mere 25 miles altitude, where 99.8% of the atmosphere is gone. Is this not the edge of space?
If the HUBBLE TELESCOPE could hold itself in place at 25 miles out, it basically could operate just as well as it does at its orbit at 347 miles. But, of course, it can't hold itself at such a low altitude, because it is not BUOYANT. It has to be at at almost 14X's higher altitude, or it does not work.
Consider the Pollution that was spewed forth into our atmosphere, just to get the Hubble telescope into its present, somewhat stable orbit! How many solid rocket fuel-launched repairs has it taken, each with compiling environmental consequences? For instance, the perchlorate disaster of Lockheed Martin, that has poisoned over 300+ wells in Texas with its rocket testing program.
It appears to me that the environmental destruction which continues to happen with each launch, could all be avoided by utilizing stratospheric balloon technology to it fullest potential.
These following webpages, I have gathered together historical information and environmental data about man's modern-day rocketing to space program.