Space Frontier Foundation Challenges NASA’s Ban on Free Speech in Space

Space Frontier Foundation Challenges NASA’s Ban on Free Speech in Space

May 5, 1999 Press Releases

Los Angeles, CA, May 5, 1999 – The Space Frontier Foundation today announced its opposition to a NASA plan to restrict free enterprise and expression in space. A NASA led international panel is currently setting rules for the International Space Station (ISS) that will ban advertising on all vehicles docking with, or operating near, the planned facility. The ban would apply to vehicles that are funded and built privately, even though similar ads are used on commercial launch vehicles and airplanes today.

“Just when we thought NASA was moving toward a more open and business-friendly environment for the ISS, they try to do something insane like banning free speech,” stated Rick Tumlinson, president of the non-profit Space Frontier Foundation. “This plan shows that NASA is not only anti-business, but is willing to trample citizens’ basic rights in their effort to control space.”

The Foundation, which has long fought for NASA to privatize the facility and get back to exploration of deep space, sees such a ban as both shortsighted and dangerous. The proposed rules would inhibit lucrative advertising and sponsorships that could save taxpayers millions of dollars, and crosses the line into a dangerous attack on freedom of speech in outer space.

“Contrary to pronouncements by NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, this shows that ISS is NOT open for business. NASA says they want the private sector to be prime users of the station, then they announce plans to gut one of the cornerstones of commerce – advertising,” continued Tumlinson. “If NASA’s logic is to be followed, all advertising visible from any federal building would have to be banned.”

The Foundation believes this proposal shows that NASA is not the appropriate organization to run the huge $40 billion dollar facility, with its complex interplay of international public and private users and vendors. The group’s solution is to remove NASA from control of the station’s operations and hand them off to a neutral civil authority that would work as a go-between for the public and private sectors, such as those that run sea and airports.

“From such anti-free speech rules to decisions on who gets to do what, when and where, those in charge of ISS will be setting legal and social precedents effecting space development for hundreds of years,” Tumlinson concluded. “NASA is an exploration agency, not a civil authority, and should not be making those types of decisions.”