REMARKS BY
PATRICIA GRACE SMITH
ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR
FOR
COMMERCIAL SPACE TRANSPORTATION
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
AT THE
"GOING PUBLIC 2000": MOVING TOWARD THE
DEVELOPMENT OF A LARGE SPACE TRAVEL
AND TOURISM BUSINESS
MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2000
CANNON CAUCUS ROOM 345
CANNON HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON, D.C.

We have heard today of the many technical, practical and economic issues that will have to be overcome before we have routine travel to and from space, but my professional concern is with the regulatory and safety regime that will have to be developed before a true commercial space tourism industry is possible.

I believe there are several key questions that need answers before we contemplate space travel for the general public.

  1. What degree of safety assurance will be required before operators are allowed to offer space travel in the commercial transportation market?
  2. How will we determine when we have achieved of that level of safety of vehicles and operations?
  3. Who will determine that these conditions have indeed been met?
  4. Of concern to a lot of us here at this conference is what level of physical qualification, if any, will be required of passenger candidates who desire to travel on spacecraft?

These are not idle questions. We have heard throughout the day about the news stories stories about Dennis Tito, the California millionaire who has signed up to be the first space tourist, paying a reported $20 million to visit the Russian space station Mir.

This sheds some light on the answers to the questions I have posed as they apply in the Russian space program, but they also demonstrate the need to move toward answering these questions as they apply to U.S. enterprises if we want to realistically move toward a U.S. space tourism business. I believe the time is now.

Russia has a proven launch vehicle in the Soyuz and apparently is willing to put it to commercial use and the commercialization of Mir provides a destination. While we have a proven launch vehicle in the Shuttle, NASA has demonstrated a reluctance to include non-government astronauts in the crews since the Challenger tragedy, and would likely consider it unseemly to auction off rides only to the very wealthy.

The Russians seem to consider it important for Mr. Tito to undergo thorough testing and training before exposing him to the rigors of space. John Glenn's most recent flight seems to have demonstrated that space is not only for the young, but it is probably still not for the couch potato or the physically challenged.

But the point I am making is that the evolution of a vital and viable U.S. commercial space tourism business is not dependent only on technology, funding and promotion. It is also about putting an acceptable regulatory regime in place that has the support of the U.S. public and can stand up to that segment of the populace that is risk averse that could make it politically difficult to officially bless what many may consider to be a risky business.

The STA and other supporters of space tourism might want to more specifically address how to foster a public dialogue on the risk issue, equating it with other areas in which the government sanctions activities which are on their face risky. In these areas, what does the government do or not do? And, as Peter Diamandis talked about, the public has to XXXX it for it to work.

The FAA itself licenses the flying of experimental aircraft under certain restrictive conditions. The National Park Service permits the climbing of Mt. Denali in Alaska and the rafting of Grand Canyon. Adventure vacations are big business. Bungee jumping is the stuff of state fairs and solo sails around the world attract a rapt audience.

In April 1999, when my office published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning the operation of reusable launch vehicles and reentry vehicles, we specified that the document was not meant to address the question of crew or passengers on those vehicles and that safety issues would necessarily be the subject of future rulemaking.

The safety issue and how you approach it, both in striving for a very high degree of demonstrable safety and stressing the inherent right of free people to give informed consent to accepting a certain amount of personal risk, will undoubtedly have a bearing on the outcome of such a rulemaking.

We believe that space transportation, including the development of non-astronaut space travel, is an inevitable outcome that warrants the necessary groundwork now to make the glorious opportunity to experience and explore space available to all who aspire to go.