Earth Comes First: Space tourism is hurting our planet

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Ella Ashby, Opinion Writer

We’ve all seen it displayed on every TV screen in America: “Space tourism,” known by some news networks such as MSNBC as the “New space race.” From Richard Branson to Jeff Bezos, every couple of months another billionaire shoots themselves up to the edge of space, paying way too much money for a ticket. While some could certainly claim that this is for scientific advancement, no one can deny that this new advancement is hurting our planet.
Earth is a mess. Carbon emissions are rising by the day, the polar ice caps are melting and climate change is threatening our very existence. The issue is that the people who have the money to take a stand against these critical issues and help us continue to live are too busy riding up to space like it’s a carnival ride. I’m not trying to say that the rich are obligated to help by law, but morally it just shows us how little they care. The longer our pleas for help are ignored, the closer we are to facing a life or death situation. Why should we give them our respect and adoration? Why should we willingly allow them to turn a blind eye to the harm they’re causing?
It’s ridiculous that people’s money can be used to cause harm to Earth. The billionaires backing the space tourism industry are selfishly ignoring the planet’s issues, and also making them worse. Despite the claims of these rockets being “greener,” with every launch they do they release more carbon dioxide and harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. For example, a SpaceX rocket launch releases four to ten times more harmful nitrogen oxides than the largest thermal power plant in the UK. While these space flights only carry a few passengers, the amount of emissions per person is insanely high. To put this into perspective, on a standard airplane flight, there is around one to three tons of carbon dioxide released per passenger. These space flights only currently carry around five or six people, resulting in the emissions per passenger becoming as much as 100 times that amount. Imagine how much that can multiply if the industry grows bigger.
The corrupt nature of these companies has been repeatedly shown. Jeff Bezos claimed that he wanted to take all ‘polluting industries’ into space with his space tourism company Blue Origin in an attempt to tackle the planet’s environmental issues, but in an essay posted by 21 Blue Origin employees, including former Head of Communications Alexandra Abrams it was stated to be untrue.
“In our experience, environmental concerns have never been a priority at Blue Origin. Time and again we saw new capabilities added to the Kent factory, but not until the machinery showed up did the company begin to consider the environmental impact,” The employees wrote, referring to their Kent, Washington manufacturing facility.
While space tourism may be interesting to see in the future, it’s simply not what we as a planet and society need right now. Entrepreneurs who truly want to make a difference for us all need to focus on the issues happening here on Earth before they set their sights on space. The safety of Earth should always come first, and no amount of money should be allowed to threaten the safety of the people and the environment of our planet.