People who buy spray rides to the last frontier could soon find an additional charge on their bill.
US MP Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) plans to introduce a law called the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, which would impose new excise taxes on space tourism trips.
“Space exploration is not a tax-free vacation for the rich. Just like normal Americans pay taxes on plane tickets, billionaires who go into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and a few more,” Blumenauer said in a statement his office.
“I’m not against this type of space innovation,” added Blumenauer, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “However, things that serve purely tourist or entertainment purposes and have no scientific purpose should, in turn, support the common good.”
Connected: Jeff Bezos takes off Blue Origin’s first astronaut flight into space
Blumenauer presented the idea of the SPACE Tax Act on Tuesday (July 20), the same day that Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin launched its first manned space flight. On this mission, Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle transported Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk and Dutch physics student Oliver Daemen to suborbital space and back.
Bezos’ flight came just nine days after his billionaire Richard Branson flew the first fully-manned spaceflight on Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spacecraft VSS Unity.
Blue Origin is already up and running – Daemen was a paying customer – and Virgin Galactic plans to do so early next year after doing a few more test flights this fall.
Virgin Galactic’s last-mentioned ticket price was $ 250,000. Blue Origin hasn’t announced its prices yet, but it’s believed to be in the six-digit range as well. (Someone paid $ 28 million for a New Shepard seat in an online auction last month, but that was a special circumstance. The still anonymous auction winner was supposed to be on the mission on the 20th Demons.)
The proposed new tax would likely be levied on a passenger basis, as is the case with commercial aviation, the statement said.
“Exceptions would be granted for NASA space flights for scientific research purposes,” the statement said. “On flights where some passengers work on behalf of NASA for scientific research purposes and some do not, the take-off excise tax is charged proportionally to the non-NASA researchers.”
There would be two levels of taxation, one for suborbital flights and another for missions that reach orbit. The declaration did not make it clear how high the tax would be in either case or whether the revenue would be used for a specific purpose.
One such purpose could be the fight against climate change if the full name of the proposed act is for guidance. Blumenauer is concerned about the space tourism industry’s potential carbon footprint once it is fully operational, the statement said.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.