Who was on Bezos space flight?
Blue Origin's first flight to space with humans onboard included the billionaire Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen. The team traveled more than 60 miles above Earth. “There's Oliver on the left, Jeff Bezos on the right. The New York Times‘Best Day Ever’: Highlights From Bezos and Blue Origin Crew’s Short Flight to Space
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Just minutes after touching down following his successful and brief suborbital flight on Tuesday, billionaire Jeff Bezos expressed hope that humankind will ultimately develop the capacity to move the industries that have heavily polluted and warmed the Earth into space—a vision that one critic slammed as "delusional, toxic nonsense."
Speaking to MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle in one of his first interviews after the flight, Bezos—the richest person on Earth—said that "you can't imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space."
"We live in it and it looks so big. It feels like, you know, this atmosphere is huge and we can disregard it and treat it poorly," Bezos said. "When you get up there and you see it, you see how tiny it is and how fragile it is. We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space, and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is."
"Now that's going to take decades and decades to achieve, but you have to start. And big things start with small steps," Bezos said, characterizing Tuesday's flight as part of a "tourism mission" that he believes will ultimately pave a "road to space" for future generations.
Blue Origin, the Bezos-funded company behind the unpiloted rocket and capsule that took the billionaire and several other passengers to space, reportedly plans to charge around $300,000 per seat for future commercial space flights.
As The Guardian reported Monday, the space tourism industry that Bezos hopes to usher in could have significant negative consequences for Earth's climate—an impact that would run counter to the billionaire's soaring rhetoric about the need to protect the planet.
"One rocket launch produces up to 300 tons of carbon dioxide into the upper atmosphere, where it can remain for years," The Guardian noted.
In an analysis of research on space launch emissions, Jessica Dallas of the New Zealand Space Agency wrote that "while there are a number of environmental impacts resulting from the launch of space vehicles, the depletion of stratospheric ozone is the most studied and most immediately concerning."
Progressive observers viewed Bezos' foray into space—which came just a week after billionaire Richard Branson's similar venture—as an obscene product of a system that has allowed a select few to accumulate vast wealth while people across the globe struggle to survive without adequate food, medicine, and shelter.
According to an Oxfam analysis, 11 people likely died of hunger every minute that Bezos spent on his expensive rocket.
"We've now reached stratospheric inequality. Billionaires burning into space, away from a world of pandemic, climate change, and starvation," Oxfam's Deepak Xavier said in a statement Monday. "What we need is a fair tax system that allows more investment into ending hunger and poverty, into education and healthcare, and into saving the planet from the growing climate crisis―rather than leaving it."
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20 July, 2021 - 11:40am
Blumenauer raised concerns about the environmental impacts of the growing space tourism industry, and said that wealthy people making space trips should pay taxes that are similar to the taxes people pay for airplane flights.
“Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy," Blumenauer said in a statement. "Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some."
"I’m not opposed to this type of space innovation. However, things that are done purely for tourism or entertainment, and that don't have a scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good,” he said.
Blumenauer's office said there would be two parts to the congressman's proposal.
The first part would create a per-passenger tax on the price of a flight to space. The second part would create a two-tiered excise tax for each space launch, with one tier for flights between 50 and 80 miles above the Earth's surface and a second tier with a higher tax for flights that exceed 80 miles above the Earth's surface. There would be exceptions to the taxes for NASA flights for scientific research purposes.
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20 July, 2021 - 11:03am
The Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act would create new excise taxes on commercial space flights with human passengers for non-research purposes.
“Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy. Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some,” said Blumenauer in a statement. “I’m not opposed to this type of space innovation. However, things that are done purely for tourism or entertainment, and that don't have a scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good.”
Blumenauer noted he's worried about the environmental impact of launching humans into space for tourism or entertainment purposes.
"While proponents of suborbital space flights point to transatlantic flights as having similar carbon footprints, these flights carry significantly more passengers and travel much farther," said a press release from Blumenauer's office. "The result is space launches accounting for an estimated 60-times greater emissions than transatlantic flights on a per-passenger basis, enough to drive a car around the earth and more than twice the carbon budget recommended in the Paris Climate Agreement."
While Blumenauer has not released details of the proposal yet, he said he's considering a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight into space — similar to commercial flights. He would also like it to include a two-tiered excise tax for each launch. The first tier would apply to suborbital flights between 50 and 80 miles above the Earth's surface. The second tier — flights exceeding 80 miles above the Earth's surface — would face a "significantly higher excise tax."
According to a press release, the bill would have exemptions for NASA spaceflights for scientific purposes.
"In the case of flights where some passengers are working on behalf of NASA for scientific research purposes and others are not, the launch excise tax shall be the pro rata share of the non-NASA researchers," the release said.
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20 July, 2021 - 10:27am
"Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy," said Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.
By SAM MINTZ
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who is spearheading the effort, said rich space dilettantes should have to pay taxes for those flights, and noted special concern about the environmental impact of sending people into space on trips with no “scientific value.”
"Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy. Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some,” Blumenauer said.
The details: The Oregon Democrat has not released text of his legislation yet, but he said it will include a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space, similar to an airline ticket.
He's also calling for a two-tiered excise tax, the first of which would apply to suborbital flights between 50 and 80 miles above the earth's surface, and the second tier, a "significantly higher" tax, for flights more than 80 miles in the air.
The proposal calls for exemptions for NASA flights done for scientific research, and would include a pro-rata tax break for flights where some passengers are working for NASA and others not.
“I’m not opposed to this type of space innovation," Blumenauer said. "However, things that are done purely for tourism or entertainment, and that don't have a scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good.”
Ramping up: Beyond the two most recent and publicized trips of billionaires into space, private companies have big goals for the future, with Virgin Galactic planning to eventually launch shuttles every 32 hours on average.
The rapidly increasing pace of commercial space travel has raised regulatory issues, with some saying that the space office at the FAA is understaffed and overworked.
Blumenauer is not alone in worrying about the environmental impacts. “Commercial space launch vehicles emit a stunning amount of carbon dioxide,” said House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to POLITICO earlier this week. “More carbon dioxide in a few minutes than an average car would in two centuries of driving.”
20 July, 2021 - 02:13am