PORTLAND, Ore. — Billionaires are launching themselves into space.
First, it was Virgin Galatic and Richard Branson flying into the outer edges of space, some 50 miles above the earth's surface. Then, Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin crew launched into space 52 years to the day after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon.
"It's amazing, there are no words. It was a perfect mission," Bezos told an NBC reporter after landing safely on the ground.
Billionaires Bezos, Branson and soon Elon Musk are launching themselves into the space tourism industry. Musk's SpaceX company has already taken two government-funded missions to space, but those were with NASA-trained astronauts aboard and traveled to the International Space Station.
Analysts predict that within a decade, space tourism will be a $3 billion dollar industry.
"It's clear that we are watching an explosion of interest in space tourism," said Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. "These are trips up to the edge of space that have no scientific purpose. It's just space tourism."
Representative Blumenauer is proposing the SPACE (Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions) Tax Act for space tourism-related flights.
"There are indications that there are problems to the ozone layer, that the amount of emissions are about 60 times greater than a transatlantic flight on a per person basis. That's enough to drive a car around the earth," Blumenauer said.
Blumenauer's SPACE Tax would impose a 10% tax on the value of each flight, similar to the excise tax imposed when purchasing a commercial airline ticket.
"When people take a plane ride, they end up paying 9-10% tax for the privilege. It seems if people are spending hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for a couple minutes of space tourism" Blumenauer said. "Seems only appropriate that there is a small amount of money that is collected for the government to deal with these and other items with our infrastructure."
He said space tourism wouldn't be possible without money that's already been paid by the taxpayers.
"We would be nowhere if the federal government hadn't paid for it and now there are people that want to monetize space, get up there and make a private profit out of something that was only possible because of massive federal investment."
The SPACE Tax would be a two-tiered tax. Travelers would be taxed at different rates depending on how far into space they traveled.