6 February 1998
News - Other (None)
NASA/STA Press Conference on Space Tourism Cancelled - or Postponed?
Publication of Joint NASA/STA Research on Space Tourism Delayed
by Patrick Collins
A joint press conference by NASA and the Space Transportation Association (STA) was planned for January 21st at the Press Club, Washington DC, and publicised in the STA Newsletter. However it was cancelled by NASA at the last minute, and a new date has yet to be announced.

The press conference was to announce the findings of the cooperative research on "General Public Space Travel and Tourism" that has been under way since it was announced in a joint press conference in September 1995.

The President of STA, Thomas F Rogers, has stated in speeches that the results of the study are positive. (link .....) The contents of the report have also been referred to in Space News, which stated that it urges that national space policy should be reconsidered "...with an eye toward actively encouraging the creation of a large general public space travel and tourism business" (SN January 18-25).

No reason for the delay has been officially announced, but it is known that the subject of the study is very controversial inside NASA. Indeed, until recently the idea of space tourism was dismissed as a fantasy by many NASA staff. However, as readers of Space Future Journal know, progress towards space tourism research has been growing rapidly recently, being the subject of an international symposium in Germany (link... ), a session at the IAF Congress (link...), an AIAA Workshop (link...) - and the target of a group of US venture companies developing reusable rockets.

Those within NASA who see the way the wind is blowing are keen that NASA should not be left behind, and they agreed to participate in the study - but they apparently have yet to convince their more conservative colleagues that the results should be published! If the opposition win the current round, STA will probably hold a press conference alone. If NASA staff do participate, it will be interesting to see the level and scale of representation. This will be a pointer to how positive or negative a role NASA intends to play in creating humans' space future.

It will be a bit like "Kremlin-watching" in the old days of the cold war: if all the participants in the study plus Mr Goldin were to appear, then we could deduce that NASA intends to help the general public ($14,000 million of whose taxes they use every year) to travel to space for themselves - at the same time reducing the cost of NASA's own activities. If just one or a few of the NASA participants appear, then we can guess that the battle is still raging within NASA. If noone from NASA appears(!) then we can deduce that the reactionary forces have won for the present, and NASA is facing firmly back towards the past as the rest of the world heads towards our real space future!
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Patrick Collins 6 February 1998
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