Los Angeles, CA, February 19, 1997 – The Space Frontier Foundation, citing the huge costs of the Space Shuttle program, called today for an open national debate on how to achieve cheap access to space. According to the Foundation, a national space policy organization, the confused state of federal launch vehicle development is wasting vast sums of money, while dragging down both large scale human Solar System exploration and a potential major economic boom in space.
Referring to the Shuttle-Mir mission now underway, Foundation President Rick Tumlinson stated: “People are impressed by the spectacular images of the Space Shuttle and the Russian station, but the fact is we are spending $400 million dollars to launch some supplies, exchange astronauts and bring back a load of trash. Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA spends a billion dollars on the X-33 single stage to orbit rocket program it says will lead to reusable commercial rocket ships in the next decade, just as the Defense Department spends $9 billion on traditional expendable rockets. It’s crazy.”
The Foundation advocates the following solutions: a fully privatized space shuttle fleet; more X-vehicles to advance a variety of technologies; changes in regulations so that small entrepreneurial launch firms are freed to develop new systems; and new methods of purchasing launch services by the government to spur competition and end its monopoly on human space access. To further this cause, the Foundation is bringing together government and commercial space leaders for a NASA sponsored symposium it will host on Capitol Hill, July 21-22.
Concluded Tumlinson: “There are very basic reasons that some 30 years after the beginning of the space race there are only ten people (all government employees) in orbit. The world’s current government designed and operated launch systems are too expensive, too unreliable and too dangerous. The Foundation and leaders within the space industry and NASA all recognize this fact, and we want to work together to find solutions. We know that if we are to ever open space to the people, we need a space transportation system that operates the way our airline industry does today.”