Los Angeles, CA, February 14, 2001 – The Space Frontier Foundation called on NASA and its international partners to stop using politics as the primary selection criteria for determining who goes into space. Responding to comments by ISS partners and members of Congress, the Foundation believes that the debate over California businessman Dennis Tito’s possible flight on a Russian Soyuz is a clear example of how politicians and politics have come to overshadow all other concerns.
“This crisis is not about Dennis Tito or astronauts vs. citizen explorers, or how a wealthy individual spends his money, or even whether the Russians have the right to do with their spacecraft as they please,” stated Foundation President Rick Tumlinson. “It is about who makes these decisions and what criteria are used to make them.”
Over two years ago, NASA thought it would be good politics to send John Glenn for a ride into space. At the time Mr. Tumlinson said, “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!” [See: http://www.space-frontier.org/PressReleases/1998/19981029-glenn.html.]
“But now that we have a man who is simply rich rather than politically powerful, suddenly space is too risky. People in our society have always had the right to risk their own lives. If Mr. Tito wanted to climb Mt. Everest or sail his own small boat across an ocean, nobody would complain. I’ve spoken to Mr. Tito about this and he clearly understands the risks,” said Mr. Tumlinson. “If what the international partners are worried about is that Mr. Tito is a threat, either to the space station or to the other people on the station, then that would be entirely different and they should say so.”
“This is about who the space agencies really built the station for, and how it should be governed. This is only the first of what will be many, many such confrontations unless a nonpolitical management structure can be created,” said Tumlinson.