There have been major concerns regarding the Space tourism industry in recent years. In 2019, a group of scientists and researchers recorded the data from the pollutants emitted from all 103 rockets that were launched and had re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere in that year.
They found that these rockets release black carbon, or soot, when the fuel is burned. This black carbon is known to absorb the light from the sun which is then converted to thermal energy. Black carbon is incredibly efficient when retaining heat, and it is predicted that it will have a significant negative effect on global warming.
This black carbon will continue to absorb sunlight and retain the heat, as it is released into the stratosphere, where it can stay for up to four years. It is predicted that as the number of rocket launches increases it will have a detrimental effect on the ozone layer, as there are concerns that it will begin to deplete at a faster rate.
As it is stuck within the stratosphere, the negative effect this black carbon has on global warming will be shocking, as it is 500 times worse than if the same carbon was closer to the Earth’s surface, due to the heat it retains.
If we don’t regulate the space tourism industry, its emissions will become higher than those from the aviation sector. Billionaires such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson who are within this space race need to put more effort into making their rockets cleaner and more sustainable.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, is already ahead of both Musk and Branson in regards to sustainable space travel as he has opted for liquid hydrogen and oxygen which is known to have less of an effect on climate change.
The emissions from space tourism, at the moment, are particularly low, as space travel is only an option for astronauts and those that can afford it. As technology advances and this kind of tourism grows, the amounts of rockets launched will increase, therefore sustainable and cleaner ways to travel into space need to be found.