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The next frontier: taxes on space flights?

A senior Democratic official proposed a new tax on commercial space flights, shortly after Jeff Bezos landed on Tuesday after his brief high-profile jaunt to the far reaches of space.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). “

"Space exploration is not a tax-free holiday for the rich. Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy plane tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and so do some, ”Blumenauer said.

The details: The Oregon Democrat has yet to release the text of his legislation, but said he will include a per passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space, similar to a plane ticket .

It also calls for a two-tier excise tax, the first of which would apply to suborbital flights between 50 and 80 miles above the earth’s surface, and the second, a "significantly higher" tax, for flights over 80 miles in the air.

The proposal provides exemptions for NASA flights performed for scientific research purposes and would include pro-rata tax relief for flights where some passengers work for NASA and others do not.

“I am not opposed to this type of spatial innovation," said Blumenauer. "However, things which are done solely for tourism or entertainment, and which have no scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good.

Rise in power: Beyond the two most recent and high-profile trips by billionaires to space, private companies have big goals for the future, with Virgin Galactic planning to eventually launch shuttles every 32 hours on average.

The rapidly increasing pace of commercial space travel has raised regulatory concerns, with some arguing that the FAA’s space office is understaffed and overworked.

Blumenauer is not the only one worried about environmental impacts. “Commercial space launchers emit an astonishing amount of carbon dioxide,” House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) Told POLITICO earlier this week. “More carbon dioxide in minutes than an average car after two centuries of driving.”

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