29 April 2018 | The Little Big Problem of Rocket Soot


I’ll be a contrarian here, but only for a moment: with all the lecturing that we get about global warming and reducing our carbon footprint, why is no one asking about rocket soot?

I know that rockets aren’t fired into space after gassing up with unleaded at the Kwiki Mart, but combustibles are still used. And I, for one, would love to know what the carbon footprint is for all of these rocket launches, especially as we veer more and more towards a tourist-friendly space industry. Additionally, I think it would be enlightening to know what happens to all that rocket soot that is still floating in the upper atmosphere. How long does it remain there? These particles absorb sunlight. This is not a positive thing because it contributes to overall warming of the planet. But since no one ever talks about it, who the hell knows how much of a problem is really is? I mean, it’s not an unknown subject but it’s absent in the public sphere. And I’d bet good money that people in general have no idea that rocket soot even exists.

Maybe a person taking a one way flight has a greater carbon footprint than a single rocket launch, but if the public is asked to give up a great deal in order to cut that footprint or lessen the dependence on fossil fuels because of global warming, is the space industry getting a waiver?