Space Tourism May Have Immediate Impact on Climate

October 28, 2010 / 1 Comment

Space tourism flights, such as that planned by British billionaire Richard Branson, is likely to contribute in increasing carbon footprint which in turn leads to global warming and climate change.  According to new research, these flights could have an even more immediate impact on the world’s climate.

Virgin Galactics SpaceShip Space Tourism May Have Immediate Impact on Climate

This new study predicts that soot emitted by rockets in the upper atmosphere would lead to significant disruption to the world’s climatic system resulting in a net increase in temperatures.

It assumes that the nascent space tourism industry makes good on plans to carry out up to 1,000 suborbital rocket flights a years by the end of the decade. The report also warned that the Ozone layer would be affected with equatorial regions losing about one per cent of ozone cover and poles gaining about 10 per cent.

The computer models predict that the resulting stratospheric layer of rocket soot would remain relatively localized in latitude and altitude. It implies that the earth’s surface could cool by as much as 0.7 degrees Celsius in some areas, while other areas would warm.

It has been pointed out that  rockets are the only direct source of human-produced compounds above about 14 miles and so it is important to understand how their exhaust affects the atmosphere. Climate impact assessments of suborbital and orbital rockets must consider black carbon emissions too.

The research comes just days after Branson opened the world’s first commercial spaceport in Mexico and announced the first commercial space flights operated by Virgin Galactic firm. The report was funded by NASA and The Aerospace Corporation and is accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters.

(Via The Guardian)