Oregon lawmaker calls for taxing space travel for non-scientific research

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 8:29 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (WCSC/AP) - An Oregon Democrat has proposed a new tax on space travel in the wake of the successful launch and return of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin flight.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who represents Oregon’s Third Congressional District and is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, announced the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions, or SPACE, Tax Act Tuesday, the same day of Bezos’s flight.

The tax would create new excise taxes on commercial space flights carrying human pasengers for purposes other than scientific research, according to a news release from Blumenauer’s office.

“Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy. Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some,” Blumenauer said.

Blumenauer said he is concerns about the environmental impact of sending humans into space, “particularly when there is no scientific value associated with the launch.”

His office said the number of trips to space are expected to increase, with Virgin Galactic planning to eventually launch a shuttle of passengers into space, “on average, every 32 hours.”

After Bezos’s trip to space, he thanked Amazon employees and customers for their support.

But his critics countered he should show his thanks by supporting unionization efforts at Amazon’s warehouses and by payinig more taxes.

The congressman said he is not opposed to this type of space innovation.

“However, things that are done purely for tourism or entertainment, and that don’t have a scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good,” he said.

Blumenauer’s SPACE Tax Act would likley include a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space, like that for commercial aviation.

It would also include a two-tiered excise tax for each launch into space, a release states.

The first tier would apply to suborbital flights exceeding 50 miles above the Earth’s surface but not exceeding 80 miles above the Earth’s surface. The second tier, which would levy a significantly higher excise tax, would apply for orbital flights exceeding 80 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Exemptions would be made available for NASA spaceflights for scientific research purposes. In the case of flights where some passengers are working on behalf of NASA for scientific research purposes and others are not, the launch excise tax would amount to the “pro rata share of the non-NASA researchers,” the release states.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.