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The Environmental Impacts of Space Travel



Space travel is mysterious and exciting which is primarily where it's appeal lies. Recently, there has been conversation around finding life on another planet, or seeing if there is another planet that the human race can potentially move to escape the impacts of climate change on Earth. It is understood that space travel holds scientific importance- especially when it can teach us about our planet. One can argue that this justifies the environmental stress it puts on Earth. But the recent commericalization of rockets leads us to speculation about whether or not this is morally sound. What are the environmental impacts of space travel? Is the ability to gain knowledge worth the potential harm on the planet?


While the amount of fuel used in space travelvaries depending on the rocket, they all use more fuel than most people use in a lifetime. According to Nasa, “the two Solid Rocket Boosters consume 11,000 pounds of fuel per second” The sheer amount of fuel required for these ships to go to space is astronomical. Not to mention this is no guarantee that it will be even be enough to bring them back to Earth. Especially in recent years with concern over fuel shortages and constantly rising fuel prices, is it worth putting that much into these programs? Fuel is only a small part of the equation, especially in regards to the full environmental impact, however it is majorly important when it comes to the environmental impact of space travel.


Another issue which primarily lies in space tourism is the fuel and ways that the rockets work in space. For example, the rocket that Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group and worth $5.5 billion, used for his Virgin Galactic space voyage, left a trail of soot behind the ship including in the outer layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. These layers of the atmosphere are rarely impacted by rockets and leaving pollutants behind in them could have drastic effects. (The rise of space tourism could affect Earth's climate in unforeseen ways, scientists worry, Space.com). As space tourism rises the amount of ships left behind chemicals will as well. Due to the lack of data and knowledge about the effects of pollutants on those atmospheric layers there is no knowing the repercussions that will be created.


Ultimately, this leads to questions like why should we increase atmospheric emissions on something that will only ever benefit those rich enough to afford space tourism? Meanwhile those left on earth must deal with the repercussions of such an extravagance. It appears that those who can afford this luxury have no concern for the planet they leave behind While there is no denying the importance of space travel for scientific purposes, it is imperative that we consider the detrimental impacts it has on our own planet's environment before of commercializing this experience and making it accessible to billionaires.

Authors Note: For more information, about space tourism and the environmental impacts of space travel. please reference the linked articles.



Citations


1) “Space debris Australia: Piece of SpaceX capsule crashes to Earth in field” The BBC

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62414438

2) “Sustainability in Space Travel: How Does Space Exploration Impact the Environment?” Thomas Insites

https://www.thomasnet.com/insights/sustainability-in-space-travel-how-does-space-exploration-impact-the-environment/#:~:text=Increased%20Carbon%20Dioxide%20Emissions&text=While%20the%20%E2%80%9Cliquid%20engines%E2%80%9D%20in,of%20carbon%20dioxide%20during%20launch.

3) “The rise of space tourism could affect Earth's climate in unforeseen ways, scientists worry” Space.com

https://www.space.com/environmental-impact-space-tourism-flights

4) “How bad is space tourism for the environment? And other space travel questions, answered.” Vox

https://www.vox.com/recode/22589197/space-travel-tourism-bezos-branson-rockets-blue-origin-virgin-galactic-spacex

5)“The Environmental Costs of the Space Tourism Business” Earth.org

https://earth.org/environmental-costs-of-space-tourism-business/

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/113069main_shuttle_trivia.pdf



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