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United States Space

Congress Plans Space Tourism Regulation 494

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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  • Necessary evil (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C3ntaur ( 642283 ) <> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:36PM (#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.
  • by moofdaddy ( 570503 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:36PM (#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.

  • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sys$manager ( 25156 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:40PM (#10462280)
    Or you could do what Sea Launch [] does.
  • by Facekhan ( 445017 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:54PM (#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 @02:55PM (#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.

  • Global co operation (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:58PM (#10462482)
    I like the idea of governments regulating and putting in laws for this, but whats the point if another country has no laws or regualtion??

    So ok, lets say that if you launch in the USA, you get a big kick in the nuts for dropping a booster on US peons.

    What if I launch in Mexico and also drop a booster on US peons.

    Is it just stiff shit and becomes something for the diplomats to work out / war over???

    It would be good to see the governments of the world coming to an agreement about what happens if something launched from their country bombs another country.... I'm sure they must have something similar in place for those damn rockets of war and the like.

  • by The One and Only ( 691315 ) <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:02PM (#10462533) Homepage
    Speaking as a libertarian, I think lawsuits are the awesome. It's like being bitchslapped by the invisible hand.
  • Re:Did ANYONE rtfa? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Willard B. Trophy ( 620813 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:21PM (#10462748) Homepage Journal
    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?

  • by Enigma_Man ( 756516 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:28PM (#10462822) Homepage
    Whoa there Cries-with-bears.

    The regulation in effect pretains to things like early stage boosters falling onto peoples houses and such. Basic regulation like that is necessary to protect the innocent. It just sets responsibilities for things falling from space on someone, so we don't have large space debris raining down at many hundreds of miles an hour into populated area. Get it?

  • Here Here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kippy ( 416183 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:29PM (#10462836)
    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 shooting for space can do so without worrying about operating within a legal vacuum (and later physical one).

    There's also the safety stuff that others have commented on but that's been covered.

    The Mars Society [], AIAA [] and I think the NSS [] are all pulling for this so that should tell you something about how spacers view such regulation.
  • by the morgawr ( 670303 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:36PM (#10462920) Homepage Journal
    I have much more faith in independant review agencies like consumer reports then anything congress passes.
  • lame parent subject. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Urox ( 603916 ) <luthien3@jun[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:56PM (#10463185) Journal
    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 is a common reason why representatives are voted out: because they do not make laws in accordance with the "will of the people".

  • by rawdirt ( 464725 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:07PM (#10463341)
    China, for instance, which has an interest in space.
  • It Won't Happen Here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MartinSpace ( 820042 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:14PM (#10463433)
    People who are serious about suborbital space tourism have no plans to build a spaceport and fly tourists from the U.S. It will take years for the U.S. government to approve such a program. In the meantime, other, less-regulated countries will build spaceports and launch tourists. U.S. regulations won't slow down the will just prevent the U.S. from being the leader.
  • US only? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by azatht ( 740027 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:18PM (#10463481) Homepage

    Instead of for each country regulate for their own, I would like a more international aggrement. Because in this context, country-borders has no meening. Like for example:

    1. Shuttle X takes of in northen sweden
    2. heading west, rising to 100 km
    3. at 100 km, at the location directly over the USA, looses it's engines, dropping head down
    4. crashes somewhere in an overpopulated US city

    I do not think US regulations will help here...

  • by eallison ( 105451 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:23PM (#10463533)
    The tone of this is wrong. The regulation in question is HR3752. This is a good thing. Read about it here []. If you want space tourism to happen soon, you want this bill to go through. It's past the house - some idiot staffers in the Senate are screwing with it though. The jist of it is that it will require ONLY safety of people on the ground. Currently, for airplanes, there are regulatory requirements for the people in the craft as well. This bill makes sure that doesn't apply to these experimental space craft, even if they are used for paying customer flights.

    According to the most recent information, staffers in the Senate are trying to amend the bill so that it requires the same safety for people in the vehicle as on the ground. If that goes through, it kills space tourism in America dead. See this []. If people want to stop this they are going to need to call their Senators quickly and oppose it.

  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:29PM (#10463622) Homepage
    How will a set of regulations intended to ensure rocket safety be applied to a blimp-to-orbit [] 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 LaCosaNostradamus ( 630659 ) <.moc.liam. .ta. .sumadartsoNasoCaL.> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:34PM (#10463700) Journal
    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 have no faith that the US government will impose sensible regulations. The examples set with model rocketry, alone demonstrate how "too much regulation is never enough" is the guiding philosophy of regulation upon civilian activities that carry even the slightest taint of military use (explosives, ballistics, surveillance, etc.).

    Now, if LockheedMartinBoeing Megacorp wanted to loft some hardware ... well, that's a different story. Those folks are involved in the military-industrial complex and have all the home phone numbers of the important officials in the regulatory apparatus. Even if restrictive regulations are imposed on them, waivers will pop out of the woodwork.
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @05:29PM (#10464316) Homepage
    Yes. It's quite possible that in another hijack attempt, all the passengers will die.

    The difference, next time, will be that the passengers will know that if they don't fight back, they will still die. They will die, and many others will die too.

    The only reason we were taught to cooperate is that we believed that would help us survive. Now we know that isn't the case.
  • by mirio ( 225059 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @07:45AM (#10468481)
    I don't know that that's necessarily a valid leap of logic. In the once example in which the passengers did fight back (i.e., Pennsylvania), everybody still died. I don't think that 9/11 guaranteed that in the future, every hijacking will necessarily be met with resistance.

    It's valid logic because the hijackers knew that if they boarded the plane with any sort of weapon at all (come 'on, they used boxcutters!), they would easily have full control of the airplane. All they had to do was read the FAR (federal aviation regulations).

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