Space tourism by companies like SpaceX, Virgin Atlantic and Blue Origin could undo ozone layer repair, study finds | World News
The space travel of Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos could delay the progress made to mend the ozone layer, scientists say.
New research probes the effects of ships leaving and re-entering Earth on the atmosphere – especially the upper parts.
A joint study by UCL, the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that the soot produced by spacecraft is damaging the protective ozone layer around the planet – and trapping heat at a rate 500 times faster with other soot sources.
Study co-author Dr Eloise Marais of UCL said comparing spacecraft emissions to aircraft and ground-based sources was “misguided”.
While the scientists see the current damage as small, they suggest regulating the burgeoning industry of space travelers to protect from future problems.
What is the ozone layer?
The ozone layer is the part of the atmosphere made up of oxygen molecules O3 – as opposed to the oxygen O2 commonly found in air.
It protects the earth’s surface from a large amount of ultraviolet radiation emitted by the Sun, which, if allowed to pass through, can cause temperatures to rise.
Scientists have been campaigning since the 1970s to change the rule after noticing that the class was increasingly depleted.
It was determined that certain chemicals caused the damage, and in 1987 the Montreal Protocol was enacted to ban these substances – this is the only UN treaty ever signed by all 198 ratified by member states.
Holes in the ozone layer have since begun to be repaired – although most are at higher altitudes.
Damage from space travel
Astronaut scientists examined data from 103 rocket launches in 2019, including Branson’s trips. Virgin galaxyMr Musk’s SpaceX and Mr. Bezos’s Blue origin spaceship.
They found that soot-induced warming more than doubled after just three years of extra emissions from space tourism, due to more rubber in the fuel, among other reasons.
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The fact that soot is released in the upper atmosphere increases the damage – the particles are 500 times more efficient at trapping heat than other soots.
The study said that if space tourism precedes weekly trips, it will undermine the success of the Montreal Protocol.
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Lead author of the study, Dr Robert Ryan of UCL, said: “The only part of the atmosphere that shows a strong recovery of the ozone layer after the Montreal Protocol is the upper stratosphere, and that’s correct. where the impact of rocket emissions will be hardest hit.
“We do not expect to see changes in the ozone layer of this magnitude, threatening progress in ozone layer recovery.”
The findings were published in the journal Future of the Earth.