Los Angeles, CA, January 15, 1998 – The Space Frontier Foundation called the expected Friday announcement by NASA of plans to fly Senator John Glenn on the space shuttle an elitist stunt and the most expensive Congressional junket in recent memory.
“This shows that NASA is still more interested in reliving its past than in opening space to the American people”, said Space Frontier Foundation president Rick Tumlinson. “The idea of flying a multi-millionaire high government official is an insult to both the astronaut corps and the people who pay for our space program.”
The Foundation believes this stunt shows that, contrary to its public assertions, NASA has not progressed at all from where it was in the 1960s. Rather than advancing private citizens’ ability to enter space themselves, NASA continues feeding pork to Congress and performing public relations events as a way to stay funded.
“Honoring this great American hero is one thing, but NASA’s claims that they are flying him to do ‘research’ is simply a lie,” stated Tumlinson. “NASA only recently removed senior astronaut Story Musgrave from flight status because he was 61, and Glenn is in his late seventies!”
Tumlinson pointed out that it was Senator Glenn who spoke out after the Challenger accident and said it was too dangerous to fly civilians in space. “Has he changed his mind? This is a slap in the face to dozens of much more deserving people who have worked their whole lives for such an opportunity, people who can do a far better job of communicating the space experience to the rest of us, from teachers to reporters. Yet over the years NASA has told them all: ‘No, No, No!’ NASA should open this frontier to everyone, rather than using our Space Shuttle to give a Senator a gold watch.”