‘Lunacy’ of space tourism detracts from sustainable benefits of space-tech

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The ‘lunacy’ of space tourism, epitomised by two famous billionaires travelling into the earth’s outer reaches, should not detract from the potential of space-tech to make a strong contribution to the world’s sustainability drive, according to Malcom McPartlin, co-manager of the Aegon Global Sustainable Equity Fund.

While the flights caused dismay among the sustainable community, McPartlin says investors should not lose sight of the fact that the technological developments in the space industry over the last decade could have a positive impact on society and the planet in the years to come.
“It’s fair to say recent news on the ‘new space’ race didn’t exactly exude sustainability,” he says. “Watching some of the world’s best-known billionaires flying to outer space was greeted with a negative reaction in sustainable circles. Shouldn’t they be doing something more worthwhile with their vast resources? How much carbon did those flights burn? These are very fair points.”
However, McPartlin points out that amid the ‘egoism’ of this space race is a raft of positive developments that could help drive efforts to make the world a greener place.
“There have been significant advances in space-tech over the last 10 years which in time have the potential to make a strong contribution to the world’s sustainable drive,” he says.
“At the heart of space-tech advances has been a significant reduction in the cost of sending payload into space; it has fallen by around 100x over the last decade. The concept of reusable rockets pioneered by SpaceX, combined with the continued miniaturisation of technology, has seen private capital investment transform the economics of space. We expect to see this paradigm shift in the cost of space-tech to lead to a wave of disruptive products and services in the coming decade.”
McPartlin says the recent launch of a dedicated space-focused investment trust has shone a spotlight on the early-stage businesses being enabled by this technological development. He points out that the sustainability benefits being sought include bringing satellite-based connectivity to the 3-4 billion people who currently lack it – something that could “make a massive difference to education, trade and economic prosperity in the developing world” – energy efficiency, and, by providing a more powerful global view of climate data and environmental science, more effective climate action and better ESG reporting.
“We expect these kinds of technologies to enable companies to continue making a positive impact on society and our planet,” he says. “So, the next time we see a billionaire fly past in their latest space toy we can take comfort we have achieved something more worthwhile with space than the lunacy of space tourism.”