Personal space travel might sound like a doorstep into the future, but environmental experts claim that there are questions regarding how it can affect the planet’s climate. Companies such as Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX have made space travel available for all those people who can afford it. The space tourism companies plan on taking all the paying customers to space rather than the government-trained rocketeers.
This “space tourism” has the power to add hundreds of rocket launches every year as companies, such as Virgin Galactic, believe that they aim to increase the flights to hundreds every year. But the experts have said that such launches will produce a lot more greenhouse fumes amidst the fight against global warming.
In this blog, we will provide some information about private space travel and share what the environmental experts have to say about it.
Experts give insights on climate change & space tourism
The exhaust emissions of the soot trap heat and CO2 in the atmosphere leading to global warming. The atmosphere’s cooling will also occur when clouds are formed due to the water vapor contemplating the incoming sun’s rays right back to space. The worn-out ozone layer cannot absorb much sunlight, for which the stratosphere doesn’t heat up way too much.
To properly understand the effects of rocket launches in the atmosphere requires comprehensive modeling. This will help explain all these complicated methods and the tenacity of such impurities in the upper atmosphere. Also, understanding how exactly the space tourism sector will grow is equally important.
Virgin Galactic has anticipated that it will provide 400 spaceflights every year to all those people who can afford it. SpaceX and Blue Origin will soon announce their respective space travel plans. Experts believe that the rocket doesn’t need to increase to hundred launches just to lessen the harmful effects of sources, such as CO2 and ozone-depleting CFCs [Chlorofluorocarbons] right from the aircraft.
The environmental experts have also said that the rockets can emit 4 and 10 times when compared with Drax during the time of the launch and also over the same time. On the other hand, Drax is the biggest thermal power plant located in the United Kingdom.
The CO2 emissions for tourists on the space flight will be 50 times to 100 times more when compared with the 1 ton to 3 tonners every person on a long flight. Scientists must have an excellent understanding of these rich astronauts’ effects on planet Earth’s atmosphere. This is especially true if the worldwide regulators aim to control the population properly and keep up with the embryonic industry.
Type of fuel used by different companies for their rockets
To take tourists to space, space tourism companies have provided some insights about the type of fuel they are using to power their rockets. We will learn about them in detail under this section.
- Blue Origin: Blue Origin uses hydrogen and lights oxygen to fuel their rockets for space travel. When the fuel is burned, it releases water vapor right into the atmosphere.
- SpaceX: The rockets in SpaceX utilize light oxygen and kerosene for the fuel. When burned, it releases carbon dioxide along with soot or black carbon.
- Virgin Galactic: The fuel used in rockets of Virgin Galactic is solid carbon-based and contains nitrogen oxide. It also releases black carbon or soot along with carbon dioxide.
Black carbon can be problematic!!
A model was published in the magazine of the American Geophysical Union. It was found out that if 400 flights were made every year for 40 years straight, it would produce greenhouse gas emissions that can lead to 1 Degree-C Celsius more heating in the Arctic region than how much has been expected.
Professor of Atmospheric Science Darin Toohey from the University of Colorado-Boulder believes these types of changes are the ones that experts are worried about these days. The changes in the climate due to such space flights can be problematic for all the experts. There is not much research on space tourism and its effects on the environment.
But Darin Toohey believes that experts can make proper estimates on the fuel they use for their rockets. They must also stay well aware of what happens when the fuel is burned. Toohey is a lot more worried about carbon-based fuels, just like the one utilized by Virgin Galactic and SpaceX. Their fuel produces black carbon or soot when the fuel is burned.
Here, the black carbon can be pretty problematic mainly because it reflects the sunlight, which can amplify global warming that reflects the sunlight and can amplify heating at the atmosphere’s upper levels. When you look at it from kg to kg, the black carbon or soot is between 100,000 times to a million times effective at heating the upper levels of the atmosphere.
Other things the experts have to say about space tourism
Another professor Eloise Marais who teaches geography at the University College London has stated that water vapor can also heavily donate towards the warming of the atmosphere.
So, it’s wrong to think that it’s not doing anything up there. Experts have to consider all sorts of complications, and one of them is water vapor, which sounds pretty innocuous. It is also said that all kinds of space travel can produce NOx or nitrogen oxide through high temperatures required to access the Earth’s atmosphere.
NOx is said to be 300 times a lot more potent when compared with carbon dioxide when it comes to warming or heating up the atmosphere.
Why exactly does space tourism matter?
Even though there are so many concerns about space tourism, especially about its impact or influence on the planet, there are reasons why private space travel matters. These reasons are:
- Releases the space ambitions from outdated burdens
The plan to place men on the Moon was backed by billions of taxpayer dollars and championed by the politicians. NASA’s budget was already cut when men placed their foot on the Moon’s surface. Subsequent European, Russian, and US space programs, such as from the Shuttle to the ISS or International Space Station, have suffered greatly due to the absence of determination and political cooperation.
But space tourism, on the other hand, doesn’t contain the whims of the politicians or favors from the taxpayers. When the business can raise funds, it can easily construct a spacecraft. More importantly, this particular free market is for all those individuals who already have a lot of funds in their pockets. But this is not the same for the other enterprises present in the private space sector.
- Will offer a new view of planet Earth
It’s widely accepted that one of the biggest achievements of the Apollo Moon mission was the view of planet Earth from space. The astronauts of Apollo 8 said that they came up this way to explore the surface of the Moon, but they ended up discovering Earth. The astronauts who took a picture of Earth from the Moon described it as “a blue-colored marble against the background of nothingness.”
Astronauts who have visited space have claimed that their views about the world have changed after viewing the planet from space. So, if politicians and leaders visit space through space tourism, their views about the world might also change. Who knows? It might impact the decisions they make when it comes to climate changes, border problems, and various other things.
Traveling to space can be a life-changing experience for someone. This is now possible through space tourism as many companies plan to send people to space who can afford it. But environmental experts are worried about how it will impact the planet’s climate. But apart from that, private space travel can offer a new view of the Earth and release taxpayers and politicians from funding it.