Space Tourism- No Lift Off for Sustainable Travel

It almost goes without saying that space tourism will not emerge into the mainstream stratosphere as a form of sustainable travel. But after esteemed pop culture role models such as Lance Bass (of N’ SYNC fame) and Warren Buffet endorsed this alternative form of travel, the spotlight left its environmental implications and focused on the trivial, such as the obscene amount of money it costs to take a trip to space. All is not lost in the quest for sustainable travel and space travel. With the opening of the first spaceport this week, fresh eyes are taking a look at the effects of space travel on the environment.

As the popularization of space travel for the layman increases, so do the effects of space travel and the environment, subsequently highlighting a new need for sustainable travel. Despite measures taken by a number of international commercial airline carriers to decrease their carbon footprint, the space travel industry seems to be just getting started. As the number of commercial space flights increase, the amount of black carbon emissions will also increase, ultimately altering atmospheric circulation around the world. Atmospheric waste particles do not disappear into thin air. They remain anywhere from 3 to 10 years. Today’s ozone problems are worrisome, but ozone problems will be exponentially worse once space travel has replaced any recognizable form of sustainable travel. Harmful ozone rays will be distributed throughout the stratosphere, causing a permanent Weather Channel reading of “Poor Air Quality.”

Global warming experts have admonished about the decrease of polar sea ice for years, and an increase in commercial space travel will only exacerbate the problem. Current predictions hypothesize that polar sea ice coverage could be reduced by 15%, causing the polar ice surface to increase by 1° Celsius. These numbers may seem small in magnitude, but their impact on the environment is monumental.

The sustainable travel industry cannot afford to sit this one out by the sidelines. As previously mentioned, commercial airliners have taken a proactive approach to environment preservation by operating with biodiesel fuel, but scientific kinks still need to be worked out before their efforts are deemed positive. Fortunately or unfortunately, Congress has taken note of the public’s blind enthusiasm for private space travel by passing a $1.6 billion NASA Authorization Act that will be used to fund the creation of private space travel space craft. Since a number of Congressmen and women have publically questioned the validity of scientific research proving the deterioration of our environment, the NASA Authorization Act should come as no surprise.

While the statistics paint a grim picture, awareness of the future of space travel is the first step towards eradicating this environmentally harmful form of recreational travel.

Photo Credit: Bruce Tuten