Los Angeles, CA, January 27, 1999 – The Space Frontier Foundation, a space policy organization, called on the U.S. to endorse a recently announced Russian plan to keep the Mir space station in orbit through 2002 using private funds.
Foundation President Rick Tumlinson stated: “If Russia finds commercial means to keep Mir in orbit, the U.S. will achieve its originally stated goal for working with them to build the International Space Station (ISS). It keeps their space team intact, paid, and in Russia. It will mean fresh cash flow for their hard-pressed high technology sector, and can also act as a test case for commercialization of human space activities, something NASA says it wants to do with ISS. All of this without U.S. taxpayers footing the bill.”
The Foundation led the fight to “Keep Mir Alive” since plans were unveiled to bring it down to clear the way for the U.S. led International Space Station. The group believes the only way to open space to large numbers of people is to increase the volume of space-based commercial human activities to bring costs down, using the free enterprise system as the driver, rather than relying on taxpayer-funded government operations.
Said Tumlinson: “One building does not a frontier make. The ISS must not be an end in itself, but a catalyst around which other activities can take root. Mir and ISS represent the first two buildings of the first human community beyond Earth.”
The Foundation feels NASA should endorse this new effort, if Energia (the Russian firm that operates the station) can find the $150 million per year needed to keep it operating without using U.S. funds provided for their work on ISS.
“If Russia can use commerce to take Mir off the financial books when it comes to carrying out their contracted work on ISS, Mr. Goldin should call it a victory for the American free enterprise system. NASA’s reaction to this plan will tell us a lot about whether they believe their own rhetoric about opening the space frontier to the people of Earth or whether it is just propaganda.”
The Space Frontier Foundation is a national space policy organization dedicated to opening space to human settlement as soon as possible.