Space tourism and global warming

In Monday’s issue of The Space Review, Steven Fawkes discusses the potential impact global warming concerns could have on space tourism. Space tourism activities, even in their most robust scenarios, would make on a very small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, but Fawkes notes that there could be the perception that even that is too much in the eyes of environmental activists. That “is a particularly high risk as space tourism, although small in extent, will be very high profile and it will be seen as an activity for ‘the rich’, which adds to its negative image in some environmental circles.” Fawkes’ recommendation is that space tourism operators make every effort to be “carbon neutral”, offsetting any impact through emissions trading programs or similar measures.

Virgin Galactic has been noting that their flights will have limited environmental impacts for some time, such as at the SpaceShipTwo cabin unveiling in New York in September. But that has not insured Virgin from criticism, even as Richard Branson announced a climate change prize earlier this month. “But what is the use of a trip that takes you nowhere but 70 miles above ground – with the “space” bit of the ride lasting just a couple of minutes?” asked Steve Connor of The Independent earlier this month in an article titled “Saviour of the planet – or a space-hopping hypocrite?” (This is the same article where Connor calls the company “Virgin Galactica”, so weight his comments accordingly.) Branson climate change prize, writes Connor, “is a commendable gesture in that direction. But how does he square that with his desire to turn us all into an army of carbon-crazed space cadets?”

1 comment to Space tourism and global warming

  • I think spaceflight may at first have an impact on the environment, but this will be eliminated over time as “green” technology introduces itself to spacecraft technology. Furthermore, the positive impact of possibly moving some industry to space and exploiting space based materials instead of tearing up the environment for Earth based resources will far outweigh any initial polluting activies of this new industry…

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