By Alexandra Dolce –

Space tourism enables non-astronauts to travel to outer space for leisure and business.  It will enable travelers to experience microgravity, visit landmarks and to literally view the universe. It has the potential of creating new jobs and inventing new space technologies.

However, it is not without pitfalls. Space tourism will negatively affect the environment by creating additional space debris and by emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which causes climate change. Additionally, “noise from space launches can” interfere with sound for navigation and communication which disrupts the environment of ocean animals.

According to Future Markets Insight,  by 2033, there is likely to be close to a 40% increase in the demand for space tourism. Therefore, based on these statistics, is it arguable that it is unethical to promote and encourage space tourism prior to establishing a framework that regulates or ameliorates the problems mentioned above?

Consequentialist ethics examines justification based on “the advantages of the overall outcome”. Here, the overall outcome(s) can be depicted as contributing to the overall well-being of society by producing well-traveled wealthy space tourists (“WTWST”), creation of a new job market and the advance of STEM and new space technologies, all of which, with the exception of the WTWST, are being created by current space exploration.  Are these outcomes advantageous enough to justify chronic destruction of the earth through space tourism?

Arguably, no.  Earth is the home of approximately eight billion people, and the destruction of the planet coincides with the destruction of not only human life, but all life. Global warming increases droughts, which decreases the water supply available to humans, wildlife, and crops.  Further, even if humans were able to build enough space habitats to house close to eight billion humans and their forthcoming off-spring, what would happen to the other living organisms remaining on Earth?  Building and establishing space habitations may seem like an alluring idea, but it does not justify the environmental destruction associated with space travel.

What’s the alternative? Striking a balance by promulgating legislation that requires the space industry to create “cleaner” sources of energy and establishing norms that promote “greener” rocket launches that allow space tourism but also mitigate damage to Earth.  Space tourism is here for the long haul, but a long-term eco-conscious approach to it, through legal and institutional measures, will ensure environmental protection and longer survivability of life on earth.

 

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