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United States Space

Congress Plans Space Tourism Regulation 494

Posted by michael
from the long-arm-reaches-outer-space dept.
ackthpt writes "No new venture seems to escape some regulation, as is the case with the budding space tourism industry. As I piloted my personal groundcraft through pea-soup fog this morning (observing about half the others driving with lights off) CNN News mentioned impending regulation and legislation is on the way to govern commercial space transportation. Among concerns are safety of uninvolved public (to ensure boosters or other launch vehicle parts don't land on the unsuspecting public), assessing risk to passengers and level of fitness necessary to withstand the forces and conditions of spaceflight. Addressing such concerns are the FAA's office of commercial space transportation and the Commerce Department's Office of Space Commercialization and of course the US Congress."
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Congress Plans Space Tourism Regulation

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  • by krog (25663)
    a wet blanket is thrown onto a gathering fire.

    I wonder how Congress will misregulate this industry (at least until it becomes rich enough to hire lobbyists).
    • by mumblestheclown (569987) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:28PM (#10462118)
      Umm, CFR 14 (Code of Federal Regulations Part 14 - aka the Federal Aviation Regulations) Chapter III has been around for quite a while. Nothing new to see here, folks.
    • by Rei (128717) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:32PM (#10462179) Homepage
      Yeah... I mean, heaven forbid we try and stop people from dumping boosters on people's houses, or launching people on 6G-accel rockets with a 90% chance of killing their passengers without telling them of the risks.

      This is common sense stuff. Just because you hear the word "regulation" doesn't mean it's time to freak out. I'm thankful as hell that the airlines are regulated.
      • by drakaan (688386) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:36PM (#10462232) Homepage Journal
        You, sir, are not sufficiently paranoid.
      • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:42PM (#10462305)
        > Yeah... I mean, heaven forbid we try and stop people from dumping boosters on people's houses, or launching people on 6G-accel rockets with a 90% chance of killing their passengers without telling them of the risks.
        >
        > This is common sense stuff. Just because you hear the word "regulation" doesn't mean it's time to freak out. I'm thankful as hell that the airlines are regulated.

        If you drop a booster on my house, I'll sue you into the stone age.

        If your 6G rocket kills 90% of its passengers, and my 5G rocket kills 5% of its passengers, people will figure out the risks for themselves, and choose to fly on my rockets rather than yours, at least until you redesign your rocket to be safer than mine.

        There's a happy medium, but ultimately, this is also common sense stuff.

        Congress, you govern a very large economy. Can't you leave this little piece of it alone? Surely there must be something left that you can fuck up for lobbyist dollars than space tourism. Is the well of freedom truly that dry that you have to wipe out private space tourism when it's less than 72 hours old?

        • Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sbeitzel (33479)
          So, you don't think that requiring automobile drivers to pass a (very) basic skill and knowledge test (the passing of which a driver's license is proof) is a good idea? You reckon that anyone who wants to should be able to drive a car, whether they are able to do so safely or not? And the solution to their fuckups is to sue them?

          Oh, wait! Even better! Anyone who wants to should be able to build any damn thing and drive it around on the road, no matter what kind of foul emissions it spews and no matter wha
          • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

            by robertjw (728654)
            Ahhh.... one of my favorite rants.

            So, you don't think that requiring automobile drivers to pass a (very) basic skill and knowledge test (the passing of which a driver's license is proof) is a good idea?...

            No, actually I don't think passing a very basic skill and knowledge test is a good idea. I think that there is not nearly enough training/testing that goes into licensing drivers. I also think that the city/state law enforcement uses the regulation of traffic to belittle and harrass what are genera
        • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:19PM (#10462727)
          If you drop a booster on my house, I'll sue you into the stone age.

          In your unregulated world where lawsuits are the only way to keep people's bad actions in check, who gets all the power to make decisions?

          It would be those damned trial lawyers, meddling judges and looney juries. It would probably be only system that could possibly be worse than our current one.

        • by fmaxwell (249001) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:27PM (#10462815) Homepage Journal
          If you drop a booster on my house, I'll sue you into the stone age.

          And winning that lawsuit will bring your dead spouse, child, etc. back to life, won't it?

          If your 6G rocket kills 90% of its passengers, and my 5G rocket kills 5% of its passengers, people will figure out the risks for themselves, and choose to fly on my rockets rather than yours, at least until you redesign your rocket to be safer than mine.

          Ah, capitalism solves everything. So what about all of those dead people? Fuck 'em if they aren't rocket scientists and, thus, didn't understand the risk.

          Congress, you govern a very large economy.

          But the Republican leadership has spent four years making it smaller.

          Can't you leave this little piece of it alone? Surely there must be something left that you can fuck up for lobbyist dollars than space tourism. Is the well of freedom truly that dry that you have to wipe out private space tourism when it's less than 72 hours old?

          That's right! Look at how all of those damned regulations have killed the auto industry. They regulate everything: Seat belts, airbags, emissions, bumpers, lighting, brake systems, vehicle width... The list goes on and on. That's why no one drives cars any more.
      • by CrazyDwarf (529428) <michael.rodman@gmail.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:48PM (#10462369) Homepage
        Yeah... I mean, heaven forbid we try and stop people from dumping boosters on people's houses, or launching people on 6G-accel rockets with a 90% chance of killing their passengers without telling them of the risks

        Uhm... is it currently legal to drop boosters on people's houses? Won't existing laws cover that?
      • by jfengel (409917) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:10PM (#10462623) Homepage Journal
        I'm just worried that the way they will regulate it will make it impossible. I can easily see them mandating equipment to prevent boosters from falling on people's houses even though they're shooting from the Mojave desert and there's no chance of it happening.

        Or mandating a bunch of extra safety equipment on board that makes the thing too heavy to fly. This is a risky endeavor, and it's going to operate on the edge of safety. Those who go up crave that risk and that adventure. They want to know that reasonable precautions for their safety have been taken, but there is a line where too much safety makes the whole venture impossible; weight is everything on this.

        I agree that it is the place of government to protect us from each other, and I hope that well-written legislation can make it happen. Sadly, I've seen very little well-written legislation.

        If they say, "You must clear out a space X miles wide for every Y miles you want to go up", I think that sounds reasonable. But if they want you to put airbags on the thing, especially if that comes about because the Senator from the Airbag Producing State decides his constituents want to sell more airbags, they could kill the entire venture all at once.

        [I can't believe I'm suddenly sounding like a Republican. I'm usually all for government regulation; it's our communal way to keep us safe from each other, and I never trust the oil or chemical industries to regulate themselves. But in this case it's a bunch of smart people who don't want to kill anybody or look bad, so I do trust them to regulate themselves better than Congress can.]
        • I can easily see them mandating equipment to prevent boosters from falling on people's houses even though they're shooting from the Mojave desert and there's no chance of it happening.

          Skylab's 15ft-long tank debris? Challenger's debris? The airliner that went down in a residential neighborhood after 911? Yeah, that "no chance" thing is something I have every confidence in. After all, didn't the government shut down the airlines, the last time an airliner went down in a residential neighborhood?

          I h
    • I wonder how Congress will misregulate this industry

      Hmm. Let's quote from the submission:

      Among concerns are safety of uninvolved public (to ensure boosters or other launch vehicle parts don't land on the unsuspecting public

      Fucking communist bastards! Looking to stifle innovation! I say we round up all the liberal-weenies (obviously patriotic god-fearing Republicans don't care about large rocket boosters falling into their backyard) and send them to Gitmo for even daring to mess with the free marke

      • Yeah...and I'm *sure* that safety regulations will be the only type of regulations they put in place...
      • Unneeded rhetoric (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Picass0 (147474) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:52PM (#10462413) Homepage Journal
        Besides your over the top sarcasm, perhaps you'd understand how that government could easily hit Scaled with regulations from 15 different agencies, often with contradictory rules. The burden of such rules are difficult enough for many large airlines to deal with.

        How would you like to be a start-up and have union labor forced on you? The FAA could do this to Scaled. Pilots, flight crew, airport personel, Baggage handlers, checkpoint inspectors, ground crews - all are union labor, all would be subject to seperate contract negotiations.

        Every airline and airplane manufacturer has lobbyists to help defend them against the ever present tide of Washington and it's new laws. Scaled will probably need one at some point.

        The 2 largest airlines in the US are borderline bankrupt at this time. The cost of operations, high fuel prices, and new security measures is too great to fully add to the price of tickets.

        I imagine this is why Scaled is anxious to form a partnership with Virgin. Perhaps they can piggyback on Virgin's contracts to solve some of these problems.

        Fine headaches for a bunch of guys who just want to go into space. Yeah, I don't want a fuel tank falling through my roof. I also see where a small company could choke under the burden of thousands of pages of regulation.
    • by pavon (30274) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:43PM (#10462313)
      I was at the XPrize launch, and they made some comments about this. I was only half listening, but the impression I got was that they (Scaled, Xprize, etc) were in favor of this.

      There are legitimate concerns surrounding space travel, and some regulation is needed to address those. Given this, potential investors are reluctant to invest their money when they know that some sort of regulations will exist, but do not know what they will be or how they will effect the ventures they are funding. Burt Rutan has been working with the FAA and OSC from day one and they have been very supportive of his effort. He is wants to get get these regulations out on the table and nailed down as soon as possible, so that the transition from experimental space flight to commercial space flight can begin.
      • I agree.

        I don't think that Congress needs to get involved.

        1. Any vechile that's intended for "Space Tourism" should have to pass the same guidelines as SSO.

        2. Depending on the type of vehicle, mandate it that all passengers have to pass some type of flight physical.
      • by fmaxwell (249001) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:15PM (#10462676) Homepage Journal
        I was at the XPrize launch, and they made some comments about this. I was only half listening, but the impression I got was that they (Scaled, Xprize, etc) were in favor of this.

        What's better for space tourism:

        1. Rational regulations designed to protect the safety of passengers and citizens
        or
        2. a horrific accident resulting in multiple deaths because some greedy corporation compromised safety to increase their profits?

        I'm not at all surprised that they are in favor of getting sane regulations passed.
  • Jurisdiction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by razmaspaz (568034) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:24PM (#10462062)
    What jurisdiction does Congress have in Space? Any? I can see how regulating our airspace is their jurisdiction, but our space?
    • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:2, Informative)

      by nharmon (97591)
      I believe there are treaties against regulating space. Which means Congress should be careful, any overregulation will result in the operations moving out of the country.
    • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:4, Insightful)

      by krog (25663) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:27PM (#10462103) Homepage
      If you want to launch from America, you deal with the American Government.

      I'm sure plenty of companies will base themselves elsewhere for precisely this reason.
      • As if other countries are going to like having boosters dumped on their peoples' houses and the like.

        Besides, as to what right the US government has: It has the right to control it's own airspace. If you can get to space, from the US, without going through US airspace, be my guest ;)
    • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:30PM (#10462141)
      To get to "Space", you have to launch, presumably from this country, and have to fly through airspace, over this country. All easily under the jurisdiction of Congress.

      Once you're up there, it's a different story (international rules, perhaps). But get there first.

    • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:4, Insightful)

      by compass46 (259596) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:30PM (#10462145)
      If you are launching from US soil through US airspace to reach space... Yes, they have jurisdiction over your launch site and path taken to reaching space which they may then use to regulate various things related to your travel.
    • You'll need a permit to take off, and a permit to land. You'll probably have to pay through the ass to do it too.

      Anyone want to donate an island for space travel? At least for launches?

      We could go to Mexico for cheap space travel? I imagine the Mexican government would love the added tourism and influx of cash.
    • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the_weasel (323320) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:31PM (#10462165) Homepage
      Your insane right?

      If you plan to launch a commercial space tourism effort from this country, of course it needs regulation. Would you prefer if any moron could claim to have a rocket and start tossing people up into space?

      Would you care when one of those morons built a rocket that came apart, killing everyone on board and raining down debris? You would certainly complain bitterly if it was one of your family on board, or if it was your house that was hit by debris.

      Your local travel agencty is subject to regulation to prevent the worst of the scammers from coming into/staying into existence. Airflight is regulated tightly to ensure travel is safe for those who fly as well as those on the ground.

      What made you think launching a ship of some sort into space would be subject to less regulation? If ytou plan to launch from N. American airspace, or operate your business from N. America, expect to be regulated.

      Regulation can be stifling - but it can also be necessary.

      • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Your_Mom (94238)
        Funny you should mention that, I was going through records back in 1910 and there was a congressional speech along the same lines.I quote:

        "Your(sic) insane right?

        If you plan to launch a commerical airline tourism effort from theis country, of course it needs regulation. Would you prefer if any moron could claim to have a rocket and start tossing people up into the air?

        Would you care when one of those morons built a airplane that came apart, killing everyone on board and raining down debris? You would ce
      • Would you care when one of those morons built a rocket that came apart, killing everyone on board and raining down debris? You would certainly complain bitterly if it was one of your family on board, or if it was your house that was hit by debris.

        That's what they get for flying Crazy Eddie's Discount House of Space Travel!
      • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheart AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:22PM (#10462762)
        If you plan to launch a commercial space tourism effort from this country, of course it needs regulation. Would you prefer if any moron could claim to have a rocket and start tossing people up into space?

        I'm not going to deny that there are certain industries that require regulation. But I would say that this is an industry that requires no regulation at this point in time. For instance, it's not exactly true that any moron can throw people into space...especially since the people will be paying somehwere in the $200-$300k range for that privilege and will likely be very interested in making sure that it's an extremely safe process.

        If it were a $50 airline ticket from Cleveland to Chicago, the average flier would not have the ablity nor resources to assess the airline's ability to safely transport them. But on a nascent industry whose primary customer has an extra $300k around, I would say that the customers have the resources to perform such research in advance...and I'm further sure that they would insist on multiple levels of insurance policies, and those insurance companies will go out of their way to check on other related issues (like the possibility of debris raining down and how that could affect them.)

        Your local travel agencty is subject to regulation to prevent the worst of the scammers from coming into/staying into existence.

        Though there are sometimes, in some jurisdictions, specialized laws covering travel agents, existing criminal fraud and deception laws are sufficient.

        Having said all that, I think you would have to be insane to believe that the precautions and internal policies put in place on a private spaceship system would somehow be less than equal to NASA. NASA doesn't have to worry about profit. NASA has no insurance company breathing down its neck if something goes wrong. NASA astronauts worked their careers for the risk and privilege to be an astronaut, they didn't just pay for it. All NASA has to worry about is congressional oversight, which is often political, not necessarily practical. All in all I would trust a private company far more than the government to pull this off safely and cheaply, and I certainly couldn't see what benefit they would add in regulating it.

        We no longer live in the Wild Wild West...the insurance companies took care of that.

    • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Random Web Developer (776291) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:33PM (#10462189) Homepage
      what jurisdiction does Congress have in the world?

      just launch from europe of russia or something and no Congress laws apply
      • what jurisdiction does Congress have in the world?

        Would that they had none. But lately, some branch or other of the US government has been doing an awful lot of regulation in other countries.

        Honestly, this regulation by Congress is not a problem. China (or someone else) will take care of cheap space flight for everyone. By the time they start launching the first commercial crafts, the US will get competitive again (they just won't be first, is all).

  • And who's gonna bet that they'll require all private space flights be cleared through NASA, FAA, Homeland Defense, FBI, IRS, EPA, and DOJ?

    Commercial ventures are rendering a government agency irrelevant. Bureaucrats exist only to propagate themselves and ensure their job security. Back them into a corner, and they fight like pissed cats.

    • by stomv (80392) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:36PM (#10462233) Homepage
      1. But I would want an aero agency (FAA, NASA, whatever) to regulate them while they're at risk of flying into something else, either in the Earth's atmosphere or outside of it. Wouldn't you?

      2. I'd also want regulations providing for insurance for third parties. If my house gets hit by a piece of RichGuysTourSpace LLC, I'd like it repaired please.

      3. Law enforcement? Absolutely. Merely being a passenger in a space-bound vehicle should require at least as much security as is forced upon the airlines. ID, bomb detection, etc.

      4. EPA? In the same sense that other vehicles (like airplanes and cruise ships) are monitored, yup. Don't go dumping excessive toxicities in the environment please.

      5. IRS? Only in the sense that all businesses gotta pay their fair share of taxes.

      It turns out that requiring (2) might force (1) and (3) a la the free market. After all, I'd expect a lower risk of loss if the flight plan was cross-checked, and if the passengers were safe. (4) and (5) wouldn't be treated any differently than other similar industries. Surely, it's the job of Congress to at least investigate the possible problems before the happen though...
    • While the typical hatred directed towards bureaucracies is often warrented, no one creates a bureaucracy for shits and giggles. Regulation is needed to keep commercial intrests honest.

      Screwing over the citizens of a given country is the sole domain of the government of that country. New tech means that a new way to screw people over may have been created. So of course the Government is going to want to stay on top of it. They will figure out which agency should keep track of commercial space flight, an
  • I would hope public space tourism would use re-entrant vehicles that did not spew parts as they fly. Better for the environment, and it should be more economical as well.
    • Re:Booster rockets? (Score:3, Informative)

      by bs_02_06_02 (670476)
      Booster rockets were mentioned by Burt Rutan for use on his spacecraft in future iterations if they ever wanted to reach higher orbit.

      Personally, I think Congress is woefully inept when it comes to "regulating" new technology.

  • Thank heavens we have a government that is taking rapid action to protect us from ourselves! So what if progress is impeded, or if this bolsters a poorly-run, short-sighted government space monopoly... At least we're SAFER this way. I mean, after all, someone needs to think of the children!

    I think Franklin was right about the whole "liberty for security" tradeoff. Unfortunately, the US has become the land of Sheep.
    • Mr Franklin wasn't taking about your right to impinge on someone else's security. If a rocket fails, there's a decent chance that it will kill uninvolved people. This is a problem.

      For a more contemporary example: If a solo pilot crashes his plane in the desert, it's not a tragedy. He knew the risks and accepted them.

      If the same pilot crashes into a school, it's a different thing.
    • by IdahoEv (195056) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:24PM (#10462789) Homepage
      Allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment.

      Without any regulation, businesses get very opportunistic and start cutting corners. In the space tourism industry, opportunism and cost-cutting ultimately leads to an accident. Imagine: five passengers die in a rocket explosion. Or a booster lands on a neighborhood in west bumfuck, killing thirty people and burning down half a dozen houses.

      The market responds exactly the way you expect: people stop going into space, fearing for their own safety. And now the public is clamoring for very tight controls, so instead of moderate, early regulation, we get draconian after-the-fact regulation. The space launch industry is set back decades.

      Industry is well known for making stupid, self-destructive decisions in the name of short-term profit and competition. In fact you can hardly blame them. If their competitors can cut margins by shaving safety to the bone, they have two choices: 1) do the same or 2) go out of business. Often, regulation is an attempt to keep an industry alive, saved from its own stupidity.

      Remember, it was the airlines who lobbied year after year against tighter security precautions like secure pressurized doors on cockpits. And sure enough, nineteen assholes with boxcutters took advantage of that to kill 3000 people, a couple years back. And what happened? Because they were desperate to save the hundred million it might take to upgrade the cabin doors, the airlines took a fifty-billion-dollar decrease in business in the year after 9/11, and the taxpayers had to freaking bail them out.

      By pushing for fewer regulations, the industry killed itself. It only survived because the rest of us paid for life support.

      Same with airbags, unleaded gasoline, safety belts: these things save hundreds of thousands of lives every year. But they would never have happened without government regulation: every time, the industry screamed that it would put them out of business. But you tell me, how's the automobile industry doing? Did it go out of business recently as a result of government regulation? No, in fact now many manufacturers use safety as a selling point.

      I'm as wary of unnecessary regulation as anybody. I'm a card-carrying EFF dude with a lot of libertarian values. But it's time to pull your uninformed-anarchist head out of the sand and learn some civics. Believe it or not, government and regulations actually exist for a reason, and used wisely can benefit everyone including the businesses being regulated.

  • hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Triumph The Insult C (586706) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:27PM (#10462109) Homepage Journal
    s/Regulation/Tax/
  • Lucky (Score:2, Funny)

    by pete-classic (75983)
    observing about half the others driving with lights off


    Actually, only about a third of the people on the roads in your area this morning had their lights on.

    I'd say you were damn lucky this morning.

    -Peter
  • by halivar (535827) <bfelgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:28PM (#10462114) Homepage
    Methinks they may try to put governors on our launch boosters. Too bad, I really wanted to rice out my first rocketship.
  • The regulation does need to happen, since the concerns are legitimate.

    However, It is still quite early for such legislation to be written. The tech is still evolving. Just because SS1 took the X-Prize does not mean that their model will become the standard.

    Once the differences in private space craft approach the level of similarity same as the differences in commercial air craft, then the regulation can be intelligently written.

    Early legislation will probably focus on who has authority to sanction a fl
  • bureaucracy lives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shotgun (30919) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:29PM (#10462138)
    ...and like any living organism, the purpose of a bureaucracy is to grow, expand and reproduce.

    The FAA has done more to limit general aviation advancement (as opposed to big commercial carriers) than anything real could ever do. I make the distinction as GA is aviation for the common man, and commercial carriers are another large bureaucracy. Their certification processes insure that people who know nothing enforce rules that may not apply, and guarantee that a plane will not fly until it is outweighed by the paperwork. Any new development will be mostly ignored, as the cost of certification will likely never be recaptured.

    Now they want to limit a hand in space travel!?!
  • by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:30PM (#10462140) Homepage
    On the one hand, the small government crowd will say, "Let private industry do what it needs to do without all those regulations that tie people in knots trying to get things done. The government is too inefficient, and private industry is finally making great progress in the space area. Let them breathe!"

    On the other hand, you have to acknowledge that the private approach is typically to put profits first, last, and mostly in-between, and if that means cutting corners, well what's a few accidents? The problem, of course, is that the public ends up paying for those accidents. If a rocket causes environmental damage, people pay, court cases spring up, it's a mess. If the rocket folks cut corners in a way that somehow (I dunno how, I'm just saying) threatens public health, we, the public end up paying higher health insurance claims. There's an interconnectedness at work here.

    This is /., so we are sick of government interference in our high-tech toys. And they do go too far a lot of the time. But it's good to remember how far the private sector can go if there is no regulation whatsoever. A nice balance of corporate efficiency coupled with sensible public safety regulations would suit me. Let the rocket folks excel, but don't let them cause problems for the rest of us just because they put profits above all.

    • You're right that there will always be people who abuse other people/environment/etc. on their way to finding more cash.

      The question isn't whether or not there will be a problem, it's how do you handle that problem?

      The solution shouldn't be to hinder everyone from participating, essentially assuming everyone is likely to be a guilty party and until they prove they're intentions are good we won't let them play. Instead, we should rely on the judicial system to prosecute law-breakers and enforce strict puni

    • A sane voice! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Telex4 (265980) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:44PM (#10462326) Homepage
      Thank goodness someone can resist the kneejerk libertarian cry against Government involvement. Of course it's good that someone regulates this.

      Why?

      To ensure basic passenger safety; to ensure that they can cover themselves with insurance; to ensure that the vehicles don't destroy the environment more than they should; to ensure that commisioned flights aren't turned into effective kamikaze weapons.

      There are all kinds of considerations here that would either require the industry to establish a credible self-regulatory body, for a citizen's association to establish credible certification body, or for Government to step in and regulate it. Now how many industries regulate themselves honestly and scrupulously? How many consumer association bodies have the power to bring down corporate malpractice? The void has to be filled by Government.

      It's not the nanny state, nor is it beurocratic cronyism. It's protecting the nation from a bloody-minded selfish few.

      Of course, the state can be a bad regulator, as US institutions often are, but that's another matter.
      • Thanks. I figured I was going to get flamed into a crispy cinder for my comment here. Glad to see people noticing I was calling for balance, not either extreme.

        "Thank goodness someone can resist the kneejerk libertarian cry against Government involvement. "

        Heh. I don't know why, but that struck my mind funny. Almost like a new sig line:

        Fun With Headlines [funwithheadlines.net]: Resisting kneejerk cries since 2002!

  • The nice thing about space is that you can get there from anywhere on the planet. If the United States makes it more difficult to run a space tourism business in the country than out then launch site will just be moved elsewhere.
  • Yep, if those mongolians had regulated outriggers the way congress and the FAA regulate things there'd be no beautiful islands with naked polenesian women. US Gubmint wake up! We want to go into space. With you or without you we will. Some of us know how little it takes to get to space and we're tired of waiting for NASA to let us go.
  • (to ensure boosters or other launch vehicle parts don't land on the unsuspecting public)

    They would much rather have boosters land on the suspecting public...
  • I was afraid that this will happen. Sadly, now the US will no longer be the leader in the space race.

    Wright brothers took off in 190-*mumble*, and for years there was innovation after innovation: rudders, flaps, airelons, better engines. Sadly, people died, but hey, thats the price of experimentation. Then the FAA came in, and sadly, development has stagnated to nothing. I mean, look at how long it's taken the private sector to go into sub-orbital launches.

    Now that we've done it, the government steps in o
  • We're talking about space flight here, people. My guess would be that if doing business in the USA becomes too expensive or annoying, Mexico are right there over the border, closer to the equator and with plenty of land for launch facilities.

    Leave it to the bureaucrats to hold back the economic and technological progress of the nation, they do it every time. This time, though, it might be AWFULLY tough to recover if we fall too far behind.
  • by CdBee (742846) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:34PM (#10462207)
    1) Don't launch from the USA
    • and 2) don't register your company in the USA.

      Given the price of these trips, I doubt that the added cost of having to fly to another country is going to significantly impact on customers' willingness to buy the service.
      • and 2) don't register your company in the USA.

        Given the price of these trips, I doubt that the added cost of having to fly to another country is going to significantly impact on customers' willingness to buy the service.

        Hmm, and don't employ any US citizens. There is a treaty in place which makes a countries government responsible for any space launch activities of its citizens and companies regardless of where the launch takes place.

        This made some sense back when the only people launching space missions

    • by Politburo (640618) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:11PM (#10462644)
      I think you mean:

      0) Find customers willing to go to space in a vehicle not covered by any safety regulations, aka the insane.

      1) Don't launch from the USA
  • Necessary evil (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C3ntaur (642283) <centaur@n[ ]agic.net ['etm' in gap]> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:36PM (#10462226) Journal
    I have a lot of Libertarian views, but there are cases where government regulation is actually a Good Thing (or at least better than the alternative). Reason being, letting the market forces regulate corporate behavior just isn't good enough when planes (or rockets) fall out of the sky, food is contaminated, or drugs are defective, and people die as a result.

    Corporations are soulless entities that will do anything and everything for profit. When human life and limb is at stake, safety guidelines must be established and enforced before an incident ever happens.
    • Unnecessary evil (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fireboy1919 (257783)
      We have such a guideline: any company that lets someone die because the risks are unneccessarily high will be sued into oblivion.

      Companies could go about their business entirely unregulated by the government, and consumers can feel safe - secure in the knowledge that if anything horrible happens someone's gonna pay dearly for it.

      Out of self-interest alone companies will make sure their stuff is safe.
  • by moofdaddy (570503) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:36PM (#10462239) Homepage
    There is such a knee jerk reaction on slashdot when they hear the word Goverment. Goverment is not always a bad thing, in fact I contend that most of the time it is not. I am very glad the goverement is going to put some regulations on this. We're not talking about going out back and hitting a tether ball around, we're talking about launching a huge fucking missle into space.

    Aside from the safety concerns above the craft, there are also major concerns for those around a launch site and for the enviorment in general. Rocket fuel is really nasty stuff. I remember the warnings after Columbia went bang sent out to people informing them that getting near peices of the reckage could be very hazerdous for their health. What happens when one of the crafts goes bang over some city or populated area? And what is to stop them from taking off on the outskirts of populated areas to begin with? Sure they arn't now, but no regulations exist on the books to ensure that they don't.

    This is the job of goverment, this above all else is what I want them to regulate. They are not going to put a wet blanket on this new emerging industry, but they are going to make sure that as we move forward it is in a safe and non-reckless fashion.

    • by HeghmoH (13204) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:16PM (#10462690) Homepage Journal
      Aside from the safety concerns above the craft, there are also major concerns for those around a launch site and for the enviorment in general. Rocket fuel is really nasty stuff.

      Most rocket fuel is not. Space shuttles use what is basically a giant sparkler for the boosters, and boring liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for the main engines. Not very nasty at all. SpaceShipOne uses tire rubber and laughing gas.

      I remember the warnings after Columbia went bang sent out to people informing them that getting near peices of the reckage could be very hazerdous for their health.

      You are not nearly cynical enough. 99% of the reasong those warnings were made was to keep people from walking off with evidence by injecting them with fear.

      The remaining 1% is probably due to the nasty hypergolic fuels used for reaction thrusters and the like. This is not a huge concern, because the quantities are small, but it does exist.

      What happens when one of the crafts goes bang over some city or populated area?

      Same as what happens when an airliner crashes and burns over a populated area; horrible publicity, gigantic lawsuits, huge reparations. (Have you noticed that having a giant bureaucracy in place doesn't prevent the occasional airliner from crashing into a city?)

      And what is to stop them from taking off on the outskirts of populated areas to begin with?

      The fact that launch sites are already heavily regulated? The fact that anything that gets to space will go through FAA-controlled airspace first, and so allows the FAA to keep people from doing stupid things like launching big rockets from city parks? The fact that people would sue them into oblivion for even announcing plans?

      Sure they arn't now, but no regulations exist on the books to ensure that they don't.

      I really, really, really doubt that. The various licences that Scaled Composites obtained made headlines almost as large as their flights did. I doubt it would have been such a big deal if those licenses weren't necessary.

      All this will do is make it so that you will have to go through the mountains of paperwork needed for FAA clearance and another mountain of paperwork needed for clearance from this other regulatory body. And instead of a bloated, unfriendly government agency being able to veto your flight, you will have two bloated, unfriendly agencies and a "no" from either one will sink your venture.
    • Here Here (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kippy (416183)
      speaking as someone who is part of the political wing of a space advocacy group, we are fighting for this legislation to be pushed through.

      It provides legitimacy for this budding industry and give legal avenues for people to develop it. Think of it this way: Without any regulation saying where and how a group can launch into space, the government can just shut them down based on noise pollution, safety hazards, possession of dangerous materials, any number of things. By having prescribed rules, groups sh
  • Anyone know if Virgin Galactic will actually be launching in the US? If not, how, exactly, can the US regulate this? Frankly, if the US does over-regulate all of this, it'll just drive those high-dollar flights to other countries. We should be making it *easier* (within reason) not harder to run such touristy flights from here.
  • Move offshore..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    or to another country. Problem with shortsighted bumbling US bureaucrats solve. Net Assets by Carl Bussjaeger is a pretty good book on how far US bureaucracy can go in it's incompetence. After that you have space colonies and complete autonomy. Next Issue?
  • Did ANYONE rtfa? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dpilot (134227) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:39PM (#10462264) Homepage Journal
    Oops, this is /.

    From what I could tell, there were 2 main concerns:

    1: Uninvolved people on the ground shouldn't have to be any more concerned about debris raining down on them that they are, today. ie- they STAY uninvolved.

    2: Those who want to go up are fully informed of the risks. The operators can't hide information about their operational or maintenance records in order to make a sale.

    If initial regulations stick to those 2 points, I don't think its unreasonable, at all. For the forseeable future, I simply CAN'T fly on one, and I also DON'T want it falling on me, my loved ones, or my property. If I ever can afford to fly, I want to know the risks.
    • There should also be legislation to minimise pollution. Air pollution doesn't just stay at home -- witness the state of New York suing Ontario for their power station emissions.

      I suspect that there may be basic safety standards, too. For instance, if you deliberately made a vehicle that would explode in the upper atmosphere, and made that information public, couldn't someone commit assisted suicide in such a device?

  • An extra grand to get you to the spaceport in, say, Caymen Islands, isn't going to matter much.

    Overregulation in the US will just ensure that the business moves elsewhere. I'm sure that if they feel safe enough to carry passengers, they will feel safe enough to operate from a good airport elsewhere.

    Just don't go to St. Maarten [caribbeanalpa.com] unless you want to land your spaceship on the beach!

  • first post (Score:2, Insightful)

    I vote against regulation of space tourism.
  • No worries (Score:3, Insightful)

    by peacefinder (469349) * <alan...dewitt@@@gmail...com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:42PM (#10462306) Journal
    It doesn't really matter what the US Congress or FAA has to say about this. If they put reasonable regulations in place, that's great... everyone wins. If they put unreasonably restictive regulations on space tourism, the launch sites will simply move to a place with more friendly regulation. Maybe they'll end up flying out of Bolivia. So what?

    Virgin Galactic is talking about flights that cost $200,000 per passenger. Each passenger is buying a three day excursion including training and whatnot. Most would-be tourists will have to spend a least a day getting to Mojave and back.

    If they're looking at $200,000 and five days for the ride of a lifetime, the added time and expense of travelling to a country with a more reasonable regulatory environment is not very burdensome.

    Hopefully this will be sufficient incentive for the FAA and Congress to impose only reasonable regulations.
  • by DeepHurtn! (773713) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:45PM (#10462337)
    I mean, isn't it kind of a *good* idea to have some regulatory oversight whenever giant rockets and both private and public safety is involved? Would you *really* want the government to not regulate, say, aircraft and cars at all?

    Sometimes this "when will the gubbmint get off our backs!" mentality just strikes me as being too dogmatic, not too mention simplistic. Besides, oversight like this can be a *good* thing for the companies involved. Establishing trusted, industry-wide standards for safety can go a long way towards legitimizing a new industry in the eyes of the public.

  • Yes, it was only a matter of time. And they, (the Federal Government) will also figure how to [appropriately] tax the business. With a huge Federal Deficit, and nothing going well for America these days, I am one of those who support a handsome tax on those willing to "dish" out huge sums of money for a few hours of thrill in space. A few tens-of-thousands of dollars in tax will not be bad. To make matters worse more US jobs are being outsorced to Africa in addition to Asia. Surely the situation will get wo
  • by Facekhan (445017) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:54PM (#10462436)
    One of the amazing things about rockets is that they can travel from one place on earth to any other in about 30 minutes. Wouldn't it make more business sense to start a rocket travel system. Even after slowing down the descent for safety reasons you could still probably go from NY to Tokyo in an hour or two.
  • by code_rage (130128) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:55PM (#10462452)
    It's amazing that the overwhelming majority of the posts so far have been: the govt exists only to propagate itself, bureaucrats are determined to strangle a nascent industry that they fear they cannot control, and the govt merely wants to find a new way to increase tax revenues. Oh, and so Big Brother can impose a police state. What amazes me is that these claims are made as if they were revealed truth -- no supporting evidence whatsoever.

    So, in the interest of being "fair and balanced," here are some aspects that need regulation and some *supporting rationale* for this:
    1. Airspace hazards -- this should be obvious, but any airplane flying from ground level up to 100 km (and back) needs to avoid smacking into other airplanes. Not to mention the possibility of SS1 crashing into people or property on the ground. So they're doing it out in the Mohave now. Unless there is regulation, there is nothing to prevent them from offering flights over your favorite large city.
    2. TFOA -- things falling off aircraft. People on the ground should not merely place their trust in some offshore LLC to be responsible in maintaining the aircraft.
    3. Because it's a model that works better than self-regulation *in the long run*. A passenger cannot be epected to perform his own airplane inspection any more than he can perform his own enforcement of pollution laws or anti-trust laws or any other regulatory function.

    One of the reasons the US is a better place to live (for most people) than Mexico is not because we have better laws, or better people, but because the laws are made by (representatives of) the people, and equally important, the laws are actually enforced. Although the regulatory agencies have permitted abuses to occur, in most cases it's because they rely on industries to "self report" errors and violations. Do you really think it would be better with no oversight whatsoever? If so, please tell me which country is closer to your definition of utopia.

    • lame parent subject. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Urox (603916)
      So they're doing it out in the Mohave now. Unless there is regulation, there is nothing to prevent them from offering flights over your favorite large city.

      Didn't the FAA have to clear Mojave as a space port before Scaled Composites could even have the first launch? So in fact they CAN'T offer flights over your favorite large city. They also had to have a flight path already mapped before takeoff. So there are already some procedures in place.

      And laws are made by representatives, not the people. It i

  • How many? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eminence (225397) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <tdnarbka>> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:00PM (#10462504) Homepage
    I wonder... how many employees of various government agencies there are, eager to regulate space tourism, but I bet they highly outnumber the space tourists. Especially since most of them actually departed from Russia.
  • by Spencerian (465343) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:20PM (#10462743) Homepage Journal
    No one wants government to step in, but this is necessary as it was for any other public transport.

    Regulation sets laws that define behaviors that encourage business to invest (that is, with legislation, the likelihood of a suit is reduced and risks of collisions and other accidents are not considered experimental).

    Taxes from such regulation pay for advancements in disaster management and homeland defense (FEMA isn't yet equipped to handle a toxic booster drop; the National Guard and major armed services would need to assist in such a disaster, if not being aware of authorized and unauthorized Mach-2 vehicles in a city airspace, for instance).

    It would be best if any spaceflights (civil, business, or recreation) be handled in the one spot where such features are already in place and which would help in the overall flights--the Cape.

    I just came from a visit to the Cape and stayed at Cocoa Beach. Their economy is not good there, depending highly on decreasing tourism. A new space boom--one that would be sustaining either through private recreation suborbital hops, larger corporation spaceplane pan-oceanic commutes, as well as government flights from the Big Boys at NASA and the Air Force flights would do a state and a country good.

    I think we're looking at the next technological boon, and Scaled and Virgin are to be credited with spending the money and showing the results and potential.

    Uh, regulation does not stop when a transport leaves borders. The vehicle itself rules by the laws of the country of origin for the most part as well as common international airflight laws. A little adaptation for space travel and we're good to go.
  • by alizard (107678) <alizardNO@SPAMecis.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:29PM (#10463622) Homepage
    How will a set of regulations intended to ensure rocket safety be applied to a blimp-to-orbit [jpaerospace.com] venture or a Space Elevator?A railgun orbital launcher?

    How would regulations intended to, say, ensure that a passenger can physically withstand X number of Gs at launch be applied where the max launch acceleration is 1G?

    I can easily imagine new set of space environmental laws being used to interfere with the development of non-rocket space technology in the USA.

    The Internet isn't rocket science, copyright isn't rocket science, but corporations in pursuit of their own interests against the public have worked with Congress to do their best to fuck up both areas. So what happens when the regulations cover an area that is rocket science?

  • by kyliaar (192847) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:29PM (#10464311)
    Basically, the worst we have to fear is that Congress will make regulations so bad that space ports are merely relocated outside of the US.

    Chances are they realize this and rather than force the industry out their control, they will make logical regulatory laws that might add some impediment but not enough to make people look elsewhere for launch platforms.

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