Tourism in the galaxy of tech billionaires could harm human health and the climate, study finds


Researchers recently published a study that found pollution (including exhaust gas) from rockets built by SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic can harm human health and the Earth’s climate. . The study found that the concentration of nitrogen oxides, a free rising rocket in two cubic kilometers of air in the atmosphere, is considered “dangerous to human health”. Scientists believe that the atmospheric impact will be an important factor that needs to be carefully considered in the design of future rocket launches.

With rockets exploding almost weekly, tourism in space growing, and plans to return to the moon within a decade, more scientists are worried about the negative impact that could hit the atmosphere from the ground to the far reaches of the galaxy. of Hot exhaust gases from rockets. In fact, rockets have been traveling through the atmosphere toward space for more than half a century, but until now the impact of their exhausts on the atmosphere has not been a major concern. . Because rockets travel so fast, they only spend a few minutes in the atmosphere.

Therefore, their impact is considered minimal. Now, because private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos ’Blue Origin (Amazon), British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Rocket Lab, as well as space agencies in China, Japan, Europe and Russia is sending more rockets into space than ever, scientists said it was time to consider the long-term impact of all these launches on the environment. 2021 is estimated to be a record year for rocket launches with 160 attempts and 146 victories. And again, these are just estimates.

Some military launches were not announced because they were classified. The study, titled “Atmospheric pollution from rockets”, published last week in the journal “Physics of Fluids”, was conducted by scientists from the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, Ioannis Kokkinakis and Dimitris Drikakis. They produced the effects of chemicals and heat released by the rocket exhaust up to a height of 67 kilometers. The researchers said they found that there were significant effects on the Earth’s climate. They compared these results with data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The rocket used for the model is SpaceX’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket, which regularly makes space trips to deliver satellites into orbit, as well as to send cargo and crew to the International Space Station. It’s not the largest or smallest fuse, making it a good average example of fuse flight. It only takes about eight minutes for the rockets to enter orbit after a stopped launch. In fact, one of the reasons they rise directly from the launch pad is to break the air as fast as possible to reduce drag.

But in that short time, they burn tons of fuel. The Falcon 9’s nine engines burn RP-1 fuel, which is a refined version of kerosene that looks like kerosene. Because it is a fossil fuel, it produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, in its exhaust gases. The researchers found that the amount of carbon dioxide released when the rocket climbed one kilometer into the mesosphere was equal to the content of 26 cubic kilometers of ambient air at the same altitude.

Another aspect of rocket flight is the effect of heat and exhaust pressure on the surrounding air. Researchers have discovered that it can directly warm the atmosphere, possibly affect ozone, and produce nitrogen oxides, pollutants that are harmful to human health. Currently, these gaseous nitrogen oxides created under high temperatures at lower altitudes are carried by the air at higher altitudes, so the effects are temporary at higher altitudes. But scientists fear that the predicted increase in rocket travel in the future will have a cumulative effect.

Blue Origin plans to make its fifth manned flight into the far reaches of the galaxy in the coming weeks, after launching its reusable New Shepard rocket in March. Its first mission to launch humans into space began in July, when Bezos and his brother were aboard the passengers. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic said it plans to increase the number of sightseeing flights next year, aiming to send customers into space three times a month using its available rocket. SpaceX continues to conduct regular launches to put its Starlink satellites into orbit.

These results suggest that the atmospheric reaction at all altitudes still needs to be studied and to consider the future design of rocket engines and alternative fuels to reduce its impact. According to the study authors, one of the possible changes is to use liquid hydrogen instead of kerosene to eliminate carbon emissions, although this solution has its own set of difficulties, as the Fuel is very cold and bulky.

But researchers point out that rockets of the past, such as the main engines of space shuttles and the upper stages of Saturn V moon rockets, have used this fuel with great success. For decades, rockets have transported people and goods out of the planet; now is the time to think about what they leave behind, the researchers concluded.

Source: Study Report

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