SpaceX’s Elon Musk embarks on carbon capture

CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Elon muskElon Reeve Musk Going to Mars is Foolish The Hill’s Morning Report – Brought to you by Altria – Marking the ‘chaos and carnage’ of January 6, Tesla was criticized for opening a showroom in China’s Xinjiang province MORE, who is the current Person of the Year for Time magazine, is often accused of neglecting problems on Earth in favor of running his private space program. The accusation is unfair on several levels. After all, Musk also runs an electric car business. Now the space entrepreneur has announced on Twitter a new initiative that could prove that flying in space could also benefit Earth.

“SpaceX is launching a program to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into rocket fuel. Please join if you are interested, ”he tweeted.

Human-caused climate change, created by the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is an obsession with many both in government and in the media. Musk’s proposal has interesting implications for the question and accusations that he wants to ditch Earth and go live on Mars. The project will not only help mitigate climate change on Earth, but also contribute to Musk’s desire to build a colony on Mars.

Making rocket fuel with CO2 is the easy part of the proposition. A century-old process invented by a Nobel Prize-winning chemist named Paul Sabatier combines CO2 with hydrogen and a catalyst to create methane and water. Musk’s rocket developed by SpaceX in Boca Chica, Texas, uses engines that burn liquid methane and liquid oxygen. NASA uses the Sabatier system on the International Space Station (ISS) to create water for the crew. The methane is evacuated from the ISS.

The first part of Musk’s plan, sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere, is likely to be more difficult. The idea that capturing carbon from the air would reduce the Earth’s greenhouse gases and thereby mitigate climate change is controversial. Such a project, reported by Techcrunch, is run by a company called Climeworks in Iceland. So far, the company has spent between $ 600 and $ 800 removing a ton of carbon dioxide, which is considered prohibitive. Climeworks wants to reduce the cost to between $ 100 and $ 200 per metric ton (also known as a ton) to make the project more economically feasible.

Another form of carbon capture is to sequester CO2 directly from power plants. Indeed, NET power has a pilot plant a short drive from Boca Chica in La Porte, TX. It burns natural gas but saves and stores CO2 emissions. Could Musk buy the CO2 he needs from the NET factory or a similar source? Perhaps, but never an environmentalist, the Musk might be reluctant to ship gas to Boca Chica by diesel tanker. Is Tesla interested in developing an electrically powered tanker truck?

Either way, Musk wants to develop both air carbon capture and Sabatier technologies for his Mars implantation project. The idea is to capture CO2 from the Martian atmosphere, hydrogen from water ice, and then convert it into rocket fuel for spacecraft returning to Earth from the Red Planet.

Musk funded a $ 100 Million X-Prize encourage the development of carbon capture technologies, noting that “to win the grand prize, teams must demonstrate a working solution at a scale of at least 1,000 tonnes collected per year; model their costs at the scale of 1 million tonnes per year; and lead the way to achieve a scale of gigatons per year in the future. “

If and when a direct air capture solution is obtained, a win-win result will have been obtained. Human civilization will have one or more technologies that will go a long way in solving the climate crisis. Musk will have a source of CO2 to make his own rocket fuel and will continue to pursue his grand design of building a colony on Mars, not to mention the return of humans to the moon and a number of other goals.

A rocket whose engines burn liquid methane and liquid oxygen will create water and CO2 in its exhaust. But a world with technology capable of capturing carbon from the atmosphere will likely be more than capable of handling the situation.

Senator Bernie sandersBernie SandersDivision reigns over Jan 6 DNC staff votes for unionization Democrats pause on Biden’s social and climate spending program MORE (I-Vt.) Denounced carbon capture as a “false solution”. But the delicious irony is that while Green New Dealers concocts plans to deal with climate change that involve the destruction of the fossil fuel industry, billionaire capitalists like Musk are developing solutions that don’t involve economic calamity too. heartbreaking. Musk and people like him are more likely to succeed where politicians and activists are certain to fail. Musk promises to save Earth and go to Mars.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Space Exploration Studies “Why is it so hard to get back to the moon?” as good as “The Moon, Mars and beyond,” and “Why is America returning to the moon?“He blogs on Corner of the Curmudgeons.

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