House Democrat proposes tax on commercial space flight after Bezos launch

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'Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy,' Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the author of the bill, said.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer on Tuesday introduced a bill that would tax commercial space flight.

Blumenauer announced his new legislation after Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, launched himself into space on Tuesday morning on a commercial vehicle.

"Space exploration isn't a tax-free holiday for the wealthy," Blumenauer said in a news release announcing the SPACE Tax Act, an acronym that stands for Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions.

Bezos' short trip into space marks a trend for billionaires seeking to launch companies dedicated to commercial space travel. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson also launched a similarly quick trip into space last week.

Blumenauer's bill would tax commercial space flights that do not conduct any scientific research.

"You pay a tax when you fly on an airplane. Billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same (and more)!" Blumenauer tweeted Monday night, teasing his new legislation. "As the space tourism race continues, I’m working on a new #SPACETax to make this happen. Stay tuned."

Bezos, for his part, has faced criticism from those accusing him of using his money to take a "joyride" to space.

In an interview with CNN, he admitted that that criticism is "largely right."

But told CNN that this could be part of a larger effort to figure out how space can be used "to solve problems here on Earth."

And on Tuesday, he told MSNBC, "We have to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build the future."

"When you get up and there you see it, you see how tiny it is and how fragile it is, we need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry and move it into space, and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is," Bezos told MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle. "That's going to take decades and decades but you have to start."

Bezos' company, Blue Origin, says its ultimate goal is to help colonize space. According to the company's "about" section:

Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos with the vision of enabling a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth. To preserve Earth, Blue Origin believes that humanity will need to expand, explore, find new energy and material resources, and move industries that stress Earth into space.  Blue Origin is working on this today by developing partially and fully reusable launch vehicles that are safe, low cost, and serve the needs of all civil, commercial and defense customers.

Humans have successfully traveled to space since the 1960s. But this is the first time private companies sent civilians into space rather than the government.

Bezos' craft went about 62 miles into the sky to the "boundary" between the Earth's atmosphere and space, according to CBS News. Branson, meanwhile, traveled 50 miles into the sky.

"Congratulations to #BlueOrigin for today's flight. Space plays a critical role in our daily lives and national security. Private sector investment in space is important," Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted on Tuesday. "At the same time, I note that @NASA sent human beings to the moon and brought them back 52 YEARS AGO."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.