Washington, DC, January 28, 2004 – Space Frontier Foundation co-founder Rick Tumlinson called for the United States to “involve the private sector from day one” in redefining NASA and promoting the human space frontier stretching from the Earth to the Moon to Mars as outlined in President George Bush’s national space policy directive.
Testifying Wednesday before the Senate Full Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Tumlinson said that the Americans should “return to the Moon, scuttle the shuttles, get out of Earth to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) human and payload transport, and open the space station to commercial activities. I believe the president is sincere in what he is proposing. We believe that returning to the Moon is the right thing to do. But NASA as currently constituted cannot pull it off. It is still caught in a self perpetuating loop of inefficiencies,” he said.
Declaring that all government exploration activities should be developed with maximum private sector involvement, Tumlinson said, “There should be a hand-off to the private sector in mind from day one and not simply as a vendor to the government. The commercial sector which built this nation must have a leading role. Governments do not open frontiers; people do, with the assistance of their governments, and sometimes in spite of them. The antagonism between NASA and the private sector must end. NASA should look at them as partners and not talk down to them,” he said.
Referring to the President’s Private Sector Commission, Tumlinson warned that members need to be mainly “outsiders with just enough inside personnel to give reality check to recommendations. Commission members should not be picked by NASA and should be impartial and without ties to industry, and should be given review over time to see if the plan is on track,” he said.
Tumlinson also urged NASA to use the “Lewis and Clark” model of exploration. “Lewis and Clark went ‘over the hill’ and explored the frontier, then called in the settlers and shopkeepers to move in and set up business. Then the explorers stayed lean and mean and moved on to more far frontiers. It should be the same with NASA. Turn ISS and LEO over to the ‘settlers and shopkeepers’ and move on to Mars and beyond. Human exploration must be followed by the development of economic activities or they are a dead end,” he said.
NASA must also get out of Earth to LEO transportation, Tumlinson said. “NASA should buy its rides into space from commercial providers. An astronaut’s mission used to start on the Earth’s surface. This will no longer be true. They will be able to ride into space on private vehicles and NASA can save its time and funds working on the next leap – between planets. The frontier no longer begins on Earth, it begins in LEO. CEV must not be designed to fly from Earth to the Moon but from space to space, and be totally reusable. The space station must be handed off in large part to the private sector – and become a spaceport for transiting astronauts and Lunar missions and resupply,” he said.
To read Rick Tumlinson’s full testimony, go to: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=11684.