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Rockets & Ozone

May 6, 2009

Possible increases in rocket launches could affect the Earth’s protective ozone layer.


Could rockets roll back ozone repair? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Thanks to improved technology, rockets may be launched much more often in the next few decades. But there’s a catch: Rocket exhaust contains chemicals that deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer. In a new report, Martin Ross of the Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles notes that rockets today barely affect the ozone layer, but that could change if the space industry really takes off.

MARTIN ROSS (The Aerospace Corporation):
So let’s look at that entire picture, and sort of imagine what kind of world might evolve over the next 20 or 30 years.

He says researchers don’t yet know enough about how rockets affect the ozone layer to be able to recommend good policy. Among other things, his team suggests that future launches include instruments that can assess the potential for damage. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.