Tim Peake is 'disappointed' space travel is seen as for the super-rich

British astronaut Tim Peake says he’s ‘disappointed’ that space travel is starting to be seen as a luxury for the super-rich – and warns there’s ‘absolutely no way we can fight climate change’ without it

  • Tim Peake is ‘disappointed’ space travel is seen as luxury tourism for super-rich
  • He also warned there’s ‘absolutely no way we can fight climate change’ without it
  • Major Peake made his comments during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow
  • In 2015 he became the first British astronaut to go to International Space Station 

British astronaut Tim Peake says he is ‘disappointed’ space travel is starting to be seen as luxury tourism for the super-rich, and warned there is ‘absolutely no way we can fight climate change’ without it.

Major Peake was speaking at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where he took part in a Q&A session organised by the UK Space Agency.

Asked how he feels about space travel becoming the preserve of billionaires such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson, he said: ‘I personally am a fan of using space for science and for the benefit of everybody back on Earth so in that respect I feel disappointed that space is being tarred with that brush.’ 

But he said humans do not face a choice between space exploration and tackling climate change, adding that the widely reported figure that one rocket launch emits more than 300 tonnes of carbon is false.

‘It is important to get the facts right as well – rocket fuel, some of the most efficient rocket fuel is hydrogen and oxygen,’ Major Peake said.

‘(Jeff Bezos’s) Blue Origin is using that, so it is not 300 tonnes of carbon, there is no carbon, it is water vapour – if you burn hydrogen and oxygen it’s water vapour.

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Future of space: British astronaut Tim Peake says he’s ‘disappointed’ space travel is starting to be seen as luxury tourism for the super-rich, as he warned there is ‘absolutely no way we can fight climate change’. Major Peake has been attending the COP26 climate summit (pictured)

Major Peake was speaking at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where he took part in a Q&A session organised by the UK Space Agency

WHAT EVIDENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE DID MAJOR TIM PEAKE SEE FROM SPACE? 

Major Peake told a Q&A at the COP26 climate summit that he’d seen both the ’cause and effects’ of climate change during his time in space between 2015 and 2016.

While onboard the International Space Station he noticed the deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and smog to the south of the Himalayas.

He talked about seeing huge wildfires in Alberta, Canada, and how smoke covered the entire continent of North America.

Major Peake also said he saw evidence of both glacial retreat and algae blooming in the oceans as Earth’s massive bodies of water heat up. 

‘Now water vapour in itself has problems, I am not trying to defend it or deny it, but we also have to get the facts right about what people are doing.’

Major Peake is the UK’s first official astronaut and in 2015 became the first British astronaut to go to the International Space Station (ISS).

However, he was not the first Briton in space. That honour went to Helen Sharman, former chemist for a chocolate company, who travelled to the Mir space station in 1991. 

‘At the end of the day, almost 50 per cent of all our climate data comes from space – we need space to be a finger on the pulse of the planet,’ Major Peake said.

‘There is absolutely no way that we can fight climate change if we don’t know exactly what is going on and if we don’t know the consequences of the decisions we make.

‘So, whether its ocean salinity, whether it is temperature, carbon dioxide output, deforestation, ice caps, it is coming from satellites, so space is required.’

When asked whether he saw any signs of climate change during his time on the ISS, Major Peake said: ‘Yes, when you look down on the planet you see signs of both the cause and the effect of climate change.

‘In terms of the cause, for example, when you go over South America and you see the Amazon rainforest you can see the vast areas of deforestation, and we know that’s contributing to the climate change effects.’

He also said the ‘stunning and beautiful’ Himalayas were being blighted by smog building up to the south of the mountain range. 

Major Peake then talked about seeing huge wildfires in Alberta, Canada, and how smoke covered the entire continent of North America. 

‘When you see Earth’s atmosphere from space, it is tiny. It’s 16km thick. If Earth was a football our atmosphere would be a sheet of A4 paper.

‘And that smoke’s got nowhere to go, so it spreads out over the whole continent.

The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance shakes hands with Tim Peake at COP26

‘At the end of the day, almost 50 per cent of all our climate data comes from space – we need space to be a finger on the pulse of the planet,’ Major Peake said

Major Peake is the UK’s first official astronaut and in 2015 became the first British astronaut to go to the International Space Station

‘It’s very easy here on Earth to look up at the sky and think that goes on for ever, that lovely blue sky. It doesn’t go on forever. Very, very, very thin atmosphere, hence we have to really look after that strip of gas extremely carefully.

‘There’s not much of it wrapped around planet Earth.’

Major Peake also said he and his fellow astronauts had seen evidence of both glacial retreat and algae blooming in the oceans as Earth’s massive bodies of water heat up.

Just last month the likes of Virgin Galactic’s Branson, SpaceX’s Musk and Blue Origin’s Bezos came under the spotlight after Prince William rebuked the billionaire’s space race and instead urged them to focus their minds and money on fixing planet Earth. 

WHO WAS THE FIRST BRITISH ASTRONAUT INTO SPACE AND HOW MANY HAVE GONE? 

Major Tim Peake is the UK’s first official astronaut and in 2015 became the first British astronaut to go to the International Space Station (ISS). 

However, he was not the first Briton in space.  

According to the British Interplanetary Society, Major Peake is the seventh person born in the UK to have left Earth. 

Here are the people who have and the order in which they did it:

Helen Sharman – 1991

A former chemist for a chocolate company, Helen Sharman won her place on a space trip after answering an advertisement she heard on the radio.

She was selected from more than 13,000 applicants to be the British member of the Soviet scientific space mission, Project Juno, and travelled to the Mir space station in 1991.

During her eight days in space she carried out a series of medical and agricultural experiments. 

Michael Foale – 1992

Having been born in Lincolnshire, Michael Foale went to school in Kent and later studied at the University of Cambridge.

In 1983 he worked in mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center before being selected as an astronaut candidate four years later.

Mr Foale – who has US citizenship – went to space six times between 1992 and 2003. He still considers Cambridge to be his hometown. 

Piers Sellers – 2002

Another NASA astronaut who went to school in Kent. 

Piers Sellers later studied at Edinburgh University and Leeds University before moving to the US in 1982 and joining NASA Nasa’s astronaut corps four years later. 

He went to the ISS in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

Nicholas Patrick – 2006

Nicholas Patrick was born in North Yorkshire and went to Harrow School before studying engineering at the University of Cambridge.

After graduating, he moved to Boston to work as an aircraft engineer and became a US citizen in 1994.

He was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in June 1998 and completed his first space mission in 2006.

Patrick flew to the ISS again four years later and logged 638 hours in space before retiring as an astronaut in 2012.

Gregory H Johnson – 2008

Having been born in South Ruislip, north-west London, Gregory H Johnson went to school in the US.

He later flew F-15 jets during the first Gulf War before launching to the ISS as a pilot on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2008.

Johnson was also a pilot for the final flight of Endeavour and the penultimate flight of the Space Shuttle Program.

Richard Garriott – 2008

Known to avid computer game fans as ‘Lord British’, space tourist Richard Garriott paid about $30 million (£17 million) for a 10-day trip to the ISS.

He was born in Cambridge in the UK to American parents and followed in the footsteps of his father when he launched to space in 2008. 

Owen Garriott was a NASA astronaut who spent 60 days aboard the Skylab space station in 1973, and 10 days aboard Spacelab-1 on a Space Shuttle mission in 1983. 

His son was a computer games designer who also ran a company operating commercial trips to space.

Tim Peake

Tim Peake is the UK’s first official astronaut and in 2015 became the first British astronaut to go to the ISS.

But according to the British Interplanetary Society, Major Peake is the seventh person born in the UK to have left Earth, after Sharman, Foale, Sellers, Patrick, Johnson and Garriott.

He spent six months on the ISS between December 2015 and June 2016, completing approximately 3,000 orbits of the Earth and covering a distance of 78 million miles (125 million km). 

Major Peake also famously ran the 2016 London Marathon on a treadmill on the ISS.

He has said he hopes to embark on a second mission to space and become the first British person to set foot on the moon. 

He said the world’s greatest brains and minds needed to be ‘fixed on trying to repair this planet’ — hours after Bezos sent Star Trek’s William Shatner into space. 

In Scotland, what has been billed as the world’s most environmentally friendly rocket is currently under construction, while the Shetland Islands may play host to the first space rocket to blast off from the UK next year.

Last year planning permission was also secured to build a space port at the Moine Peninsula in Sutherland and in October a plan to expand Scotland’s space industry was unveiled by the Scottish government. 

Major Peake said: ‘There is absolutely no way that we can fight climate change if we don’t know exactly what is going on and if we don’t know the consequences of the decisions we make’

‘So, whether its ocean salinity, whether it is temperature, carbon dioxide output, deforestation, ice caps, it is coming from satellites, so space is required,’ Major Peake added

Major Peake added: ‘The Scottish space sector is thriving. In the last few years it has grown over 31 per cent, it now employs 7,500 people.

‘And some Scottish companies here are really pushing the boundaries of technology of what’s capable in terms of small satellite construction, for example, or solar panel efficiencies.

‘And this is feeding into the wider environment and enabling us in other industries to be greener and cleaner in what we do.’ 

Major Peake is now working with a company developing rocket fuel from waste plastic.

‘I am working with companies developing Ecosene – using non-recyclable plastic as a very low-carbon rocket fuel,’ he said.

‘So we can do this, we can do it sustainably, we can do it efficiently, so it is not a case of “Protect the climate, don’t go into space”.

‘It is a case of “Let’s be clever about this and let’s use space for the benefit of everybody back on Earth”.’

EXPLAINED: THE $100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION SITS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000. 

Crews have come mainly from the US and Russia, but the Japanese space agency JAXA and European space agency ESA have also sent astronauts. 

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and has been expended with multiple new modules added and upgrades to systems 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, NASA, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, with the remaining funding coming from international partners, including Europe, Russia and Japan.

So far 244 individuals from 19 countries have visited the station, and among them eight private citizens who spent up to $50 million for their visit.

There is an ongoing debate about the future of the station beyond 2025, when it is thought some of the original structure will reach ‘end of life’.

Russia, a major partner in the station, plans to launch its own orbital platform around then, with Axiom Space, a private firm, planning to send its own modules for purely commercial use to the station at the same time. 

NASA, ESA, JAXA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are working together to build a space station in orbit around the moon, and Russia and China are working on a similar project, that would also include a base on the surface. 

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