23 October 2001
Online - General (Bad)
Searching Nasa.Gov - A Web-Surfer's Guide
What search results actually reveal
by Patrick Collins
Now that the previously suppressed Nasa report "General Public Space Travel and Tourism" is available on the Nasa web site, it bears looking at. Go to www.nasa.gov and type the words 'space tourism' into the search box. You may get more than you were expecting.

The first search result to appear, entitled Statement for the Record is a statement by W. Michael Hawes, Nasa's Deputy Associate Administrator for the International Space Station. This was an exercise in 'damage limitation', since Nasa was specifically invited to participate in Congressional hearings on space tourism, along with Dennis Tito and Buzz Aldrin. It involves Nasa claiming far too much credit for work it has done its best to suppress!

"Nasa's role in enabling space tourism... includes the sponsorship of feasibility studies... Nasa-sponsored space tourism studies, conducted for years in collaboration with industry and non-government organizations, have included detailed market research analyses and helped lay the groundwork for solid strategies to make future progress. These studies include a Commercial Space Transportation Study (CSTS) completed in 1994 by an aerospace industry alliance in cooperation with Nasa, a Commercial Space Business Park study conducted by Boeing for Nasa and the ISS program in 1997, and a General Public Space Travel and Tourism study completed in 1999 (sic) by Nasa and the Space Transportation Association.

These analyses... have characterized the demand elasticity of the space tourism market... advanced the notion of the ISS as a commercial incubator providing common infrastructure to a variety of business interests, and offered a number of recommendations, some of which have already been incorporated into Nasa policy..."

In fact the Nasa/STA report cost Nasa nothing except the printing costs. The CSTS study is said to have cost $400,000, and the Business Park study considerably less. To claim that Nasa has performed "detailed market research analyses" is nonsense: it is one of the many scandals surrounding this subject that Nasa has never paid for any proper market research at all.

The second search result is a literature review of Potential ISS Markets. Out of 59 pages, page 36, on Space Athletic Events gives references to two papers on the subject in the Space Future library - one on zero G swimming pools and one on zero G gymnasia though without giving the links.

Pages 37-43 on Space Tourism give references to 17 articles, papers and press releases. The references contain many mistakes, and for most it is unclear where they are published or available. In face most are available in Space Future's archive.

The third search result to appear is "General Public Space Travel and Tourism". Nasa has it dated 25 July 01, whereas the actual report is dated March 1998. That's more than three years earlier.

Other searches that bring up links to the Nasa/STA reports include: 'public space travel', 'space trip', 'passenger space travel', 'lunar tourism' (eventually), and even 'space future' (eventually! :-).

Conversely, some searches that do not bring up links to the Nasa/STA report include: 'space travel', 'space tour', 'space tours', 'space hotel', 'space holiday', 'space vacation', and 'lunar tourist'.

The fourth search result, Space Settlement, links to a page of space-related sites, which, under miscellaneous, includes Space Future.

The fifth search result is to Volume 2 of the Nasa/STA study, also dated 25 July 2001 although it reports on a workshop held in early 1997.

Essentially none of the 131,252 other references that come up are of much relevance. So we can say that, while the present situation is an improvement, it falls very far short of what might reasonably be expected of an organisation required by federal law to "..encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space"! A very first step would be to make relevant and valuable documentation as widely available as possible.

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Patrick Collins 23 October 2001
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