Space tourism vs. global warming

As Virgin Galactic and other companies prepare to launch the commercial space age, scientists warn of dire consequences for Earth

The VSS Enterprise, Richard Bronson's commercial space flight system, competed its first manned glide flight over the Mojave Desert.
(Image credit: Mark Greenberg)

Soot from space tourism flights could have "devastating" effects on climate change, according to findings reported in Geophysical Research Letters. If private companies manage to launch 1,000 rockets a year, over a decade they will produce as much pollution as all current global aviation, which computer models say could increase winter temperatures at the Earth's poles by 1 degree Celsius and reduce polar sea ice by as much as 15 percent. The industry is set to take off — Sir Richard Branson has just unveiled the world's first commercial spaceport. But is it time to scale back plans to send wealthy thrill-seekers into space?

Space tourism is not worth its price: Taking a 15-minute, suborbital space vacation sounds like loads of fun, says Jeffrey Kluger at Time, until you calculate the costs. A ticket on a flight with Branson's Virgin Galactic — which plans to send tourists into space within 18 months — set you back $200,000, but, when dealing with rockets, there's always a chance something will explode. And now that we know your lark will also put the planet in "peril," the brief thrill hardly seems worth it.

"Vacationing in space? The planet could pay"

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This is just predicable global warming alarmism: The eco-warriors can't make up their minds, says Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media. Until recently, President Obama's science adviser, John Holdren, was suggesting we might start pumping "soot into the atmosphere to STOP global warming." Now the global warming alarmists are back to claiming that sending rockets into space — like everything else businesses do — is bad for the planet. This proves their agenda matters more to them than facts.

"But Obama's science czar said this was a good thing"

Let's just find a better way to do it: "More cars, more planes, more ships all mean more pollution and more climate-impacting emissions," say the editors at Greenbang. "So it seems obvious that more spacecraft" would have the same effect. But if the carbon-emitting hybrid rockets Branson and others plan to use aren't "socially responsible," let's put more "dollar- and brain-power" to work and figure out a sustainable alternative. It won't be easy, but we have "the tools we need" to colonize space without destroying Earth.

"Can space tourism be green?"

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