Los Angeles, CA, October 5, 2000 – The Space Frontier Foundation ridiculed NASA celebrations of the 100th launch of the 1970’s vintage Space Shuttle as a celebration of failure, by pointing out that some 40 years after the dawn of the space age it still takes tens of thousands of government employees and almost 1 billion taxpayer dollars to fly a handful of government astronauts into space for a week.
“Only NASA would think that’s a cause for celebration,” stated Foundation President Rick Tumlinson. “Instead of privatizing the Shuttle years ago, or supporting commercial space transportation, NASA maintains its human spaceflight monopoly. Meanwhile, the formerly socialist Soviet Union is working with private American citizens to carry commercial passengers into space for around $20 million per ticket. What’s wrong with this picture?”
To Foundationers, the celebrations are a bizarre public relations twist on a reality of lies and broken promises. Thirty years ago, President Richard Nixon initiated the Space Shuttle program as the “next big project” for NASA after Apollo. But instead of delivering the promised “delivery van” that would fly 50 times a year for perhaps $10 million a flight, NASA built a complicated vehicle that still requires 20,000 people to fly well under about five times a year for fifty times as much cost.
“The key problem is that the Shuttle is a government-owned and operated system,” continued Tumlinson. “Do we expect the Air Force to run an airline, or the Navy to run cruise ships? Of course not. But for some reason, we have this crazy notion that NASA has to control every aspect of human space flight, including routine missions to Earth orbit. It is time to let private enterprise lower the cost of access to space and spur a revolution in space commerce, creating new industries and jobs.”
The Foundation, which coined the term “Cheap Access to Space,” called for NASA to privatize the Space Shuttle so it can operate less expensively, stop wasting taxpayer funds on failed attempts to replace the Shuttle with ‘government-approved’ vehicles like the X-33 and the proposed $4.5 billion Space Launch Initiative Program – that it sees as a veiled attempt to create Shuttle II, and support commercial space transportation by buying needed services from private firms, and funding technology and operability demonstrations by the private sector to build customer and investor confidence.
Space transportation will be the focus of several panels at the Space Frontier Conference October 19-22, 2000, at the Manhattan Beach Marriott, located near Los Angeles International Airport, CA. For more information on the conference, see http://www.space-frontier.org/Events/SFC9/ or call 1-800-78-SPACE.
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