Los Angeles, CA, February 1, 2002 – The Space Frontier Foundation congratulated International Space Station Alpha partners for reaching a consensus on standards for visitors to the new orbital facility. Reacting to the release of NASA’s criteria for crewmembers and “tourist” visitors, the organization’s leaders expressed cautious optimism that NASA and the other space agencies were at last accepting the inevitable development of a space tourism industry.
Foundation President Rick Tumlinson stated: “We may quibble with a couple of the clauses, such as the one potentially barring those who have been critical of the space agencies from flying, but generally this is a good start.
“Primarily, we are pleased to see NASA and its partners acknowledging the reality that when it comes to humans, space is more than an exclusive government domain.” He continued, “although we believe that in the long run commercial facilities such as orbital hotels will be more popular and appropriate tourist destinations than ISS Alpha, this policy will allow all partners (and in particular the Russians) to generate much needed income for their programs by flying paying guests in the near term.”
In the past, the Foundation often decried NASA’s inability to work with the private sector in human space activities, and strongly criticized the agency’s handling of the flight of California businessman Dennis Tito to Alpha in 2001. Tumlinson, who originally signed up Tito to fly in space in 1999, and who took part in last year’s Congressional hearing on the flight, said that he and the Foundation are happy that the new regime at NASA is starting off by opening up and standardizing a process that has at times been seen as arcane, arbitrary and designed to keep ordinary people out of space.
“This is a very refreshing start for the new NASA leadership team,” remarked Tumlinson. “There may be a few bumps on the road ahead, but we look forward to a new partnership on the space frontier, with all the space agencies leading the charge in science, technology research and pure exploration, and the private sector developing new products, destinations and other commercial activities such as tourism.”