Los Angeles, CA, April 25, 2001 – The Space Frontier Foundation praised NASA and its International Space Station partners today for permitting U.S. citizen Dennis Tito to board Space Station Alpha as a Citizen Explorer, when he arrives there by Russian Soyuz rocket next month.
Calling NASA’s agreement with the Russians “historic,” the Foundation urged the ISS partners to use it as a basis for setting permanent standards for others to visit the station. Foundation President Rick Tumlinson explained, “there is now no reason a slow but steady stream of visitors shouldn’t follow him over the next few years, as the station is completed.”
Tito, who paid $20 million to fly to the Russian commercial station Mir, lost that flight when Russia de-orbited Mir in February. To honor Tito’s contract with the Russians, Energia, the firm operating Russian elements of the International Space Station, is flying him on a spare seat aboard a Soyuz “taxi” flight to Alpha. After recent negotiations with the Russians, NASA permitted Tito to board the ISS as the first non-astronaut visitor. The Foundation supports this effort and believes Alpha partners should be able to engage in a wide variety of commercial activities, including private citizen visits.
“As far as we are concerned,” stated Tumlinson, “whatever agreements were reached and signed by the parties in this case set a legal minimum for visitors. By letting him fly, they are admitting space is safe enough for ‘normal folks as long as strict training, safety and insurance standards are met.”
“I am sure many in government want this to be a one-shot affair, but that would be naïve and very shortsighted,” said Tumlinson. “They have a huge opportunity before them. This is not about Mr. Tito, but about the relationship between the space agencies and the people who fund them. Now begins the next step – nurturing public space travel by clearing the way for those who want to follow him through the airlock.”