Los Angeles, CA, October 21, 1998 – The Space Frontier Foundation today called the upcoming flight of Senator John Glenn aboard the Space Shuttle a publicity stunt which proves that NASA has failed to open space to the American taxpayers.
“Thirty-six years after sending John Glenn into orbit, NASA has finally achieved the capability to send John Glenn into orbit,” stated Foundation President Rick Tumlinson. “They didn’t mean to, but NASA’s decision to fly him again shows that the government-run space program is just going around in circles.”
The Foundation contends the Senator’s junket has nothing to do with legitimate medical studies or creating heroes, and everything to do with political pay-offs and covering up a lack of vision and real progress in NASA’s human space flight program.
“All of the reasons for this flight spewed out by NASA are lies. If the scientific data is so important, where is Glenn’s backup?” stated Tumlinson, pointing out that every other U.S. Payload Specialist flown on the Shuttle since 1984 has had a backup, with the exception of similar junkets for Senator Jake Garn and Congressman Bill Nelson. “NASA was told to do this by the White House, or volunteered to do it for the White House. Everything else was made up after the fact. If John Glenn were a hunch-backed, three-legged dwarf, NASA would have come up with a need to study hunch-backed, three-legged dwarves in orbit.”
The Foundation has worked for years to open space to civilians by forcing NASA out of the space transportation business. It is behind efforts to privatize the Space Shuttles and to let new commercial rocket firms compete for all payloads, including passenger flights. Such competition, demonstrated in many other industries, will drive down the cost of a ride to space and foster a boom in human space flight that will truly open the frontier.
“Flying to orbit should be routine by now. Thirty-six years after the Wright Brothers first flight, a person could fly commercially around the world in relative luxury,” continued Tumlinson, who recently testified before Congress with NASA Administrator Dan Goldin. “Thirty-six years after his first pioneering flight, Glenn should be able to call up his travel agent and buy a ticket. But not even he can do that.”
The Foundation strongly believes that it is time to change the focus of our space program. NASA’s efforts should be concentrated on pushing their activities beyond the Moon, a goal that would be facilitated by a private sector take over of routine space operations near the Earth.
“America does need heroes – new ones, lots of them, all doing bold new things in space; not recycled ones who use their influence to force taxpayers to buy them a retirement cruise. After all, Glenn is simply a non-paying passenger on a very expensive government bus. One that you paid for, but are not allowed to board.”