Los Angeles, CA, October 29, 1998 – The liftoff of Senator John Glenn on today’s STS-95 Space Shuttle flight clearly tells the public that the Administration thinks they have no personal future in space. From NASA’s initial pronouncement that Glenn was being allowed to return to space because “He is part of the NASA family, an American hero, and he has the right stuff for this mission”, to the lack of a backup crewmember for Glenn, to cancellation of an originally touted medical experiment, the message is clear: unless you are a NASA insider or a powerful politician, you don’t have the right stuff.
“Senator Glenn didn’t blaze any new trails here. He’s just a non- paying tourist with you and I picking up the tab,” stated Space Frontier Foundation president Rick Tumlinson. “This simply reinforces the image of space as an elite playground for friends of the government. But imagine if he had bought his ticket instead!”
The Foundation’s recent conference in Los Angeles, CA, highlighted the emerging entrepreneurial space transportation and tourism industry. The Foundation has fought for years to help these companies create a new era in space, just as airline passenger service helped to fuel the “Golden Age” of aviation in the 1920s and 1930s. Although paying passengers have traveled to the Russian Mir space station, and Senator Jake Garn and Congressman Bill Nelson have flown on thinly-veiled “Space Shuttle junkets”, no explicitly acknowledged “space tourists” have yet flown in space.
“If his seat had been sold commercially, Glenn could have signaled a new age of citizen participation in space,” continued Tumlinson. “He could have sent a very strong message that human space flight is about to become a commercial activity, and that to fly into space in the future you will not have to be one of the ‘NASA-anointed’ inner circle. He could have blazed a new trail into space instead of following an old one.”
The Foundation believes it’s time for humanity to expand into space. It has been working for several years to kick start a new space transportation industry and is pushing to hand activities in near-Earth space, such as the Space Shuttle and Space Station to the private sector. The money saved can then be used for NASA’s exploration of Mars and beyond.
“When folks like us do finally get the chance to fly on their own dime, guess who many of the first customers will be? Senior citizens!” said Tumlinson. “They have the money, they are feeling fit, and they want to do new things.”