29 June 2000
News - Tourism (Good)
The 'T Word' Reaches Cabinet Level
US Transportation Secretary Moves to Support Space Tourism
by Patrick Collins
In a little-reported speech to the US Space Foundation in Colorado Springs on April 4, US Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, who is responsible for roads, shipping, railways, aviation and commercial space, made the following statements about space tourism:

"By 2025, we might even see significant tourism in space. In recent weeks investors have begun to talk about the possibility of turning the Russian Mir space station into the world's most expensive resort destination...

...we are rapidly moving into an era in which people other than astronauts and cosmonauts will routinely fly into space for recreational or leisure time activities. There are numerous programs underway, by both government and the private sector, to develop reusable launch vehicles that will fly over populated areas carrying commercial passengers as well as crew.

As evidence of their commitment to commercial space, the President and Vice President are proposing to more than double funding for the Commercial Space Transportation Office in the FAA."

Thus Secretary Slater, the first US Secretary of Transportation to address the US Space Foundation, explicity recognised the feasibility and importance of space tourism, and is overseeing a rapid expansion in his department's role in passenger space travel. This budget increase (which is currently working its way through the budgetary process) will approximately double the staff of Patricia Grace Smith who has been doing great work to bring forward the realisation of passenger space travel - in contrast to NASA's resistance.

With an annual budget of $55 billion, the Department of Transportation (DoT) is a 'heavy hitter' in the US government. Its main focus is on supporting the commercial industries within its field, of which the annual turnover is tens of times larger than the DoT itself. To date this is the highest political level at which the subject of space tourism has been supported, or even discussed, in any country, and it is a further step in its unstoppable rise to the top of the agenda - as long predicted by Space Future.

Sooner or later NASA's anomalous situation - having a budget as large as $14 billion/year but not contributing proportionately to the economy since there is no correspondingly large commercial space industry - will be resolved. Perhaps it will become a research arm of the DoT?
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Patrick Collins 29 June 2000
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