Personal Space Travel a 'Selfish Excess'

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Walter M. Schirra Jr., one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, was remembered for saying, "I left Earth three times and found no other place to go. Please take care of Spaceship Earth."

It was offensive to this memory to read of the selfish excess of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceship line and its extremely wealthy "eco-tourists" [news story, July 29].

These people are willing to pay $200,000 each to burn toluene and other pollutants at a furious rate for 62 miles into our skies. In return, these eco-hypocrites get a four-minute "experience of seeing the Earth, and the fabled visible thinness of its atmosphere."

We cannot accept a narcissism that trumps common sense and pollutes the fragile atmosphere the rest of us must breathe. Public outrage can mobilize our government to outlaw this kind of activity.

Maybe the $3 billion Richard Branson promised in 2007 to combat global warming was designed to fend off just that kind of outrage. By preventing programs such as Virgin Galactic, we will send a message worth far more than money: We need to change our lifestyles, and moderate our dreams, to satisfy a far more pressing need.


Garrett Park

© 2008 The Washington Post Company