10 August 2001
News - Tourism (Good)
Space Tourism Promotion Act of 2001
The "T Word" Reaches Highest Level Yet
by Patrick Collins
Representative Nick Lampson from Texas introduced House Resolution 2443, the 'Space Tourism Promotion Act of 2001', in the US House of Representatives on July 10. It was then referred to the Committee on Science and the Committee on Ways and Means.

Many thousands of such bills are introduced each year. However, only a few hundred are enacted into law, usually after sufficient changes are made to benefit enough politicians to vote it into law (in the process of 'horse-trading' by which US democracy operates). Consequently it's unlikely that H.R. 2443 will be enacted in anything like its present shape. It also happens to be in a queue behind three other space-related bills: the Spaceport Equality Act (H.R. 1931), the Invest in Space Now Act (H.R. 2177) and the Zero Gravity Zero Tax Act (H.R. 2504).

In addition, it is not desirable that H.R. 2443 be enacted in its present form, which would almost certainly allocate federal loan guarantees for space tourism projects according to Nasa's selection. In view of Nasa's fierce opposition to space tourism, this would be like putting the fox to mind the hen-coop.

The bill also proposes to ban space tourists from visiting the International Space Station currently being assembled in orbit. This would have the curious effect of preventing US companies from providing services that Russian companies are already providing; Russia is clearly not affected by US law and will continue to carry passengers to at least the Russian part of the space station.

However, despite all these flaws, it is good that a bill using the "T Word" - which still apparently embarrasses and enrages so many senior members of the 'space industry' - should have reached this level of political discussion.

The next step higher is for US President Bush to use the "T Word" in a supportive speech. How long will that take? That depends on the quality of the advice he gets. But if he wants to be the person who will be remembered for having started the development of this major new industry that will eventually grow to dwarf aviation, he should force Nasa to fulfill its federal obligation to "...encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space". Bush should also select a new Nasa administrator who would help rather than hinder the growth of space tourism.
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Patrick Collins 10 August 2001
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