1. Stratospheric Soot 2. Rocket Propellants
3. Martian Madness 4. Helium
5. Re-entry Debris 6. Suborbital Debris
7. Plutonium in Space 8. Cosmos 1818
9. Re-useable Rockets 10. Space Tourism
11. Launch Accidents 12. Ozone Depletion
13. Overview Effect 14. HAPS
15. Sustainable Space 16. Our Long Future


Helium to the Rescue. Maybe.

Maybe rather than using rockets, we could gently drift to the edge of space in a gondola suspended beneath a helium baloon? That would be sustainable, wouldn’t it? After all, helium is so abundant and chape that can regularly use it for such frivolous things as party balloons.eyond Earth is an appraisal of the environmental impact of space activity.


While spacecraft that drift aloft under a balloon filled with helium lack the dramatic impact of rockets, there are concerns for the sustainability of finite helium supplies.

Well, that depends on what happens to the helium once the balloon reaches its lofty destination. If the helium is recovered and used for the next balloon flight, this would be a sustainable means of space tourism.

Unfortunately, the space tourism ventures that use helium dump the gas it into the atmosphere once the balloon has reached its maximum altitude and it is time to descend.

This is a problem becuase helium is produced naturally very slowly, so it would be easy to consume helium faster than it naturally generates. Also, most helium today is gathered as a by-product of natural gas production and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we need to stop burning (and thus extracting) natural gas by the end of this century.

So under this scenario, most of the new helium supplies run out by 2100. Fortunately, since 1925 helium has been stockpiled in the National Helium Reserve.

Unfortunately, a 1996 law to dispose of this repository means that helium today is being sold at a price that justifies its blatant wasteage. Wasting helium. Are you serious. Party Balloons.

Ah, yes, I understand. Helium is Running Out Helium (He) is a finite resource and once it is released into the atmosphere, it escapes into space. With the forecasted helium consumption, the helium world reserves – that have built over billions of years – could be depleted in one generation.

If we want a Long Future, we can’t afford to waste finite resources, particularly ones that are so important. We need to nurture them. 

Why the world is running out of helium

Helium Scarcity

Zero to Infinity

This is the closest you get to sustainable space tourism today. Read the words on the OIIOO website and you will see that these guys want space toursim to contribute to sustainability. The gondola is taken aloft by a helium balloon and then released to parachute back to earth. Not sure yet what happens to the balloon or the helium. More on that as it comes to light.

World View Experience

Similar to Zero to Infinity, World View drifts aloft with a helium balloon. They describe the fate of the balloon and the helium. “For the return trip, the pilot begins the descent by venting helium from the balloon, which begins to gently descend. The ParaWing takes over for the remainder of the flight and the pilot releases the balloon, which the ground crew later recovers for recycling.