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|Origin:||Presented at 1st STA Conference on Space Tourism, June 1999|
The concept of space tourism has been under discussion since the 1950's. In the mid-1950's, the Hayden Planetarium offered to take reservations for people interested in flying to the planets: over 250,000 wrote in to reserve their place. In the late 1960's, following the release of the Stanley Kubrick / Arthur C. Clarke movie "2001: A Space Odyssey", PanAm accepted 90,000 reservations for people wishing to fly to the moon. From this and from more recent market research, it is clear that the idea of space tourism is very popular with the general public.
In 1998 NASA published the report "General Public Space Travel and Tourism" (1) which endorses the feasibility of space tourism, and foresees it growing into a larger commercial space activity than all space activities today. Also in 1998 the American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics (AIAA) published the report "International Cooperation in Space" of which pages 25-30 were devoted to the subject of public space travel, and concluded: "In view of its great potential, public space travel should be viewed as the next large, new area of commercial space activity" (2). Today, at least two companies are accepting advance reservations to fly passengers on sub-orbital flights to space and thereby to earn their "astronaut wings".
The main obstacle facing space tourism services has been, and remains, that the vehicles required to fly passengers to and from space on a regular, safe and low-cost basis do not yet exist. Today, those wishing to fly to space as a passenger have only two vehicles to choose from, the U.S. Space Shuttle or the Russian Soyuz, of which only the Soyuz is available for commercial hire.
For many years it has been recognized that the technology required for sub-orbital space travel is not a barrier; much greater difficulties lie in the raising of capital investment and the development of a suitable regulatory structure. The X PRIZE Competition has been created to foster a mechanism which has historically made capital available, namely sponsorship of competitors in a race (similar to the America's Cup yacht races and Grand Prix motor races). The X PRIZE Foundation is in the final stages of raising the funds to offer a $10 million prize for the first team to fly repeatedly to an altitude of 100 km, and 14 teams have registered to compete. However, a number of regulatory matters remain to be resolved before this activity can lead on to commercial passenger space travel services. This paper focuses on the issue of creating an appropriate regulatory structure to allow X PRIZE derived vehicles to carry passenger traffic.
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