11 May 1999
Publications - Tourism (None)
2nd Volume of Historic NASA/STA Study Published
Proceedings of 1997 space tourism workshop in print at last
by Patrick Collins
The team that produced the historic NASA/STA report, General Public Space Travel and Tourism, has now published Volume 2 - Workshop Proceedings, NASA/CP-1999-209146, dated February 1999.

The new volume includes 6 chapters, summarising each of the different workshops that were held by more than 50 participants from February 19 - 21, 1997 at Georgetown University, Washington DC:
1 Space Transportation and Destination Facilities
2 Passengers, Crew, Life Support, and Insurance Considerations
3 Certification, Regulation, Legislation, Policies, and Environmental Issues
4 Financial, Economic, Business Planning, and Market Requirements to Start a Viable Space Tourism Business
5 Early Precursors
6 Research and Development, Technology Requirements, and Use of Existing Space Assets

Reading through the chapters gives the feeling (correctly) that much of this work is rather "early days". For many of the participants this was indeed the first time that they had been "allowed" to give serious professional thought to the subject of space tourism. And far too few of them have been able to spend much time working on the subject since then - due to the US government's continuing policy not to help realise what NASA itself now acknowledges is the most promising commercial opportunity in space!

So some of the conclusions seem perhaps a little obvious: "If a vehicle is developed and demonstrated to be adequately safe and reliable at an acceptable price, then financially viable general public space travel and tourism businesses will be created." Well, er, yes - we should hope so! But it is important that all 6 workshops reached strongly positive conclusions, and it is real progress to have such statements published at last - in a NASA report.

The report's 2nd appendix quotes some striking statistics: notably that tourism is the largest industry in the world, representing 10% of the world economy, and employing 200 million people. Seen in this context, it seems likely that somehow the industry is going to be able to rustle up the few $billion needed to get space tourism under way.

The conference being held by the Space Travel and Tourism Division of STA in Washington DC on June 23-24 1999 builds specifically on the issues raised in these workshops, and will focus on what steps need to be taken to realise this new industry.

Better late than never
It's an open secret that many NASA staff are against the idea of space tourism, and tried to delay the publication of this report and its predecessor. So long as NASA ignored the subject, their thinking goes, NASA could continue to rest on its Apollo 11 laurels. The commercial success of "Apollo 13" gave them hope that the public could be lulled into thinkng of space as history - with NASA as the curator of the museum. John Glenn's 2nd flight can be seen as an attempt to follow "Apollo 13 nostalgia" - but instead it apparently helped to chip away at the hoary myth that only super-fit people can go to space. Most viewers' response was "If he can go at 77, why can't we?"

The truth is that NASA's laurels are now 30 years old: 1969 isn't even remembered by anyone under 33. And there are no more "great moments" to make movies about. So it's high time for the "hero of the cold war" to create a new role for itself to match the post-cold-war world - and that can only be to help give the public what they want: general public space travel and tourism.
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Patrick Collins 11 May 1999
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