Today, the Honorable Ralph M. Hall (D-TX) sent a letter to NASA
Administrator Dan Goldin indicating Hall’s strong objection to the flight of
a “space tourist” to the International Space Station during its assembly
phase. Hall’s letter was occasioned by reports that a private citizen might
buy his way onto a Space Station mission with a cash payment of $20 million.
Hall has asked that NASA provide information regarding whether a meeting of
the ISS Board had considered this matter and what position NASA had or would
take on the proposal. The text of the letter to Administrator Goldin


February 6, 2001

The Honorable Dan Goldin


National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Washington, D.C. 20546

Dear Mr. Goldin:

I am disturbed by recent press reports that indicate that NASA is
giving serious consideration to allowing a flight to the partially assembled
International Space Station of a would-be “space tourist”, Mr. Dennis Tito.
I am aware that you have received a letter from Mr. Yuri Koptev, the head of
the Russian Aviation and Space Agency regarding the possibility of such a
flight later this year.

As I understand it, such a flight would first have to be approved by
the appropriate International Space Station multilateral board, of which
NASA is a member. Has a meeting of the board to consider the Russian
proposal yet taken place? If so, what was NASA’s position? If not, has a
meeting been scheduled, and what position do you intend to take when the
board does meet?

Let me be clear about my position on this issue. I am strongly
opposed to the flight of any “space tourists” to the International Space
Station during its assembly phase. I would note that my opposition to
flying Mr. Tito is not based on the fact that the Russian government would
be receiving a cash payment for the flight. Rather, I cannot justify
putting at risk a Space Station that is being built with tens of billions of
taxpayer dollars so that a private citizen can fulfill his personal desire
to fly into space. As you no doubt would agree, the assembly of the
International Space Station will be an extremely challenging undertaking
with significant risks to both the crew and the Station in the event of an
unforeseen contingency. This critical period is not the time for
distractions or visits by any but trained astronauts who have specific tasks
to fulfill.

Moreover, I believe that such visits would represent a serious
misallocation of resources. The U.S. Laboratory Module “Destiny” is
scheduled to be launched in the near future. With its arrival, the
International Space Station will be able to support the important research
that I believe to be a cornerstone of its mission. NASA has in the past
made much of the limitations on crew time, consumables, and habitable volume
that will occur during the assembly phase. If now there truly are
sufficient on-board resources available to support a “tourist” visitor
during the Station’s assembly period, then those resources should instead be
used to support the flight of a trained scientist who can directly
contribute to meeting the research goals of the Station.

Space tourism may well develop in the coming years if we are able to
reduce the cost and increase the reliability of commercial space
transportation systems. The Russians would have had every right to send
tourists to the Mir space station if they so chose. Even tourist visits to
the International Space Station or a privately-owned successor might make
sense at some point in the future; we do not have to decide that question at
this time. We do, however, have an obligation to the American taxpayers to
ensure that the International Space Station is not jeopardized during its
assembly or its resources misallocated.




Ranking Democratic Member