Space tourism is pointless and damaging

2011-12-19

in Bombs and rockets, Economics, Geek stuff, Politics, Rants, The environment

Henry Shue has written convincingly about the moral importance of the rich giving up luxuries for the sake of fighting climate change, before the poor are asked to give up necessities. As he explains it, even in an emergency you sell the jewelry before you sell the blankets.

The ultimate example of luxury emissions is probably private spaceflight, as described in Nature recently. All that fuel gets burned so that a few really rich people can get to a high altitude and gawk for a while before returning to Earth.

Surely, our climate policies should curb such behaviours.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon December 20, 2011 at 12:12 am

A roller coaster is an adeqaute simulation of space tourism. You get that little moment of zero-g flight.

It’s also a lot more accessible, from a cost perspective.

oleh December 20, 2011 at 12:47 am

I agree.

Byron Smith January 1, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I entirely agree with the sentiment here (ditch luxuries before necessities) and that space tourism represents one of the ultimate luxuries. However, a small pedantic note: certain types of common rocket propellant do not directly produce carbon emissions (for instance liquid oxygen and hydrogen, which combine to form H20).* Of course, the production of these substances requires energy, which is likely to have come from burning fossil fuels, yet theoretically, they could be produced using renewables and then used to lift rockets without a major carbon footprint.

*Yes, water vapour is of course also a GHG, but its short residency means that adding small amounts of water vapour to the atmosphere is not really a climate issue. It is a feedback, not a forcing.

. January 27, 2014 at 4:31 pm

The industry’s worst fears, of a collapse in cruise bookings, proved to be misplaced. Worldwide, cruise ships’ passenger numbers rose in 2012 and 2013, in spite of the accidents. And Carnival remained profitable, as did its two main rivals, Royal Caribbean International (RCL) and Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). Revenues were hit, but they have begun to bounce back. Carnival’s revenues started to rise again in 2013, and analysts also expect both RCL and NCL to report strong growth this year.

. December 22, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Space tourism is, charitably, an indulgence for the super-rich. As for colonising other planets, there’s a reason they call that stuff science fiction. As millions on Earth die from preventable illness, poor sanitation and famine, technologies that serve alleged convenience and fantasy are irresponsible, not laudable.

I am encouraged to see that you have retained your admirable scepticism in most other regards. But if you must keep at it with plutocrats in orbit (and robotic cars, which won’t make a material dent on the highways until the 2030s, if ever), may I suggest that for convenience you centralise the articles in a new section. Perhaps you could title it Implausibilities and improbabilities.

RICHARD WYNNE
Seattle

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