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Flying the polluted skies.

As Richard Branson continues to push ahead with every teenage boy's dream--space tourism--new research suggests that should Virgin Galactic really take off, it could create major air pollution ... a fact that would counteract Virgin's various attempts to reduce the emissions created by its other operations. A decade of space tourism would put as much soot into the atmosphere as current global aviation does, according to a report co-authored by several US atmospheric scientists. Several private space-flight companies, such as Virgin Galactic, are contemplating using hybrid rocket engines that ignite synthetic hydrocarbon with nitrous oxide. These hybrid engines emit more black carbon--soot--than a normal kerosene and oxygen engine, according to the report. "Rain and weather wash out these particles from the atmosphere near Earth's surface," says Michael Mills, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "But in the stratosphere there isn't any rain and they can remain for three to 10 years."

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Title Annotation:temperature gauge: notes from a warming world
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 21, 2010
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