Billionaire space race for space tourism creating new climate threat

Last week, Virgin Galactic whisked Richard Branson over to the edge of the space, approximately 86 kilometers above the ground, as part of a new and burgeoning space race, with billionaire Amazon boss, Jeff Bezos set to make a trip of his own on Tuesday.

Both these, extremely wealthy, businessmen want to significantly increase the number of humans in space. Branson remarked immediately after his trip that his company Virgin Galactic is here to make space more accessible to everybody. adding another remark welcoming everyone to the start of a new epoch of space exploration.

Eloise Marais, associate prof. of physical geography, University College London, warned that the kick-off of a new private space sector focused on space tourism and popular use might have significant environmental consequences.

Marais researches the effects of industries and fuels on the environment.

Fuel such as kerosene or liquid hydrogen, which is used to take these rockets out of space, emits a variety of pollutants into the atmosphere including chlorine, water, carbon dioxide, and many other types of chemicals.

Marais claims that while rockets emit very little carbon as compared to the aviation sector, their contribution is growing at a rate of roughly 5.6% per year. Prof. Marais has been conducting a simulation for a decade to find out a point of time when they will compete with conventional sources humanity is familiar with.

Because rocket emissions are released directly into the upper atmosphere, they remain there for a long period, approximately two to three years. According to Marais, even water pumped into the higher atmosphere, where it can create clouds, can have warming effects on the planet, let alone rocket exhaust.

Another 2019 research from the Center for Space Policy and Strategy compared the space pollution problem to that of the space debris, which the authors claim poses an existential threat to the sector.

The research stated that launch vehicle emissions released into the stratosphere during a rocket’s ascent into orbit are harming the global atmosphere to no end.

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Having completed her Post Graduate degree in Digital Marketing, Shreshtha always nurtured an innate passion for writing. She works as a content writer at and pens down news articles spanning numerous verticals. Her other interests include reading and travelling.