Senator Kit Bond today condemned NASA’s capitulation to Russian demands to fly a millionaire tourist aboard the International Space Station and demanded that the space agency conduct a formal risk assessment of this incident and report to Congress on how this decision was made.

“I have seen some stupid decisions by government before, but this one tops the list,” said Bond, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA and other agencies. “It is not a simple denigration of the mission, but a very real safety-of-flight issue. Further, Russia’s unilateral demand completely undermines the cooperative spirit of this entire project.”

Yesterday, NASA acceded to Russian demands to fly American millionaire-tourist and California businessman Dennis Tito aboard the International Space Station. The 18-nations building the station ratified the capitulation, allowing Tito to pay the Russians $20 million for the world’s first orbital joyride which begins this Saturday.

“For the life of me, I cannot fathom why NASA made this decision full well knowing that it represents a real risk to the crew and will detract from the mission,” said Bond. “What in the world are we doing spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on a cooperative project when other members are allowed to hijack it to raise cash.”

United States Senate

Committee on Appropriations

Washington, DC 20510-6025

Honorable Dan Goldin


National Aeronautics and Space Administration

300 E Street, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20546

Dear Mr. Administrator,

Please be advised that I am very disappointed by NASA’s apparent capitulation to Russia in allowing Mr. Dennis Tito an opportunity to visit the International Space Station (ISS) as a paying tourist. As you may know, my staff has been assured on several occasions by NASA staff that the type of visit proposed by Mr. Tito to the ISS would not be allowed. This consequently further undermines the already shaky credibility of the ISS program. Moreover, this trip demeans the overall purpose of the ISS as a world class laboratory in earth orbit where astronauts can live and conduct research. More importantly, this trip places the lives of the current crew at an unacceptable risk during the still early construction phase of the ISS. Finally, this trip raises serious concerns with regard to Russia’s ability to meet its responsibilities as a partner nation to the ISS venture.

I am especially troubled by Russia’s new approach to the International Space Station as an amusement ride for wealthy tourists. This is an insult to all Americans and further damages a program that is deeply troubled by both massive cost overruns and mismanagement. Frankly, I do not understand how a trip for Mr. Tito to the Station is possible. Not only is the suggestion of the Tito trip wrong, it could place every ISS crew member at risk of their lives at a time when all the energy and focus of the crew needs to be on meeting the ISS construction requirements as well as ensuring the ISS is a safe environment for both the current crew and all future crews. This is the type of issue that should have been addressed through the original partnership agreement and must be subject to the agreement of all the partner nations, and I find the representation that there has been a consensus agreement very difficult to believe. Instead, this type of activity will mean that the Station is going to be little more than a junket destination for the rich while the American taxpayer is left holding the bag, with costs of more than $26 billion just to finish the construction of the International Space Station and an overall bill that could cost taxpayers upwards of $100 billion. Again, this undermines the original promise of the Station as a world-class space research laboratory.

I am also disappointed by Mr. Tito who has trained marginally and should understand that he will be at best a distraction in a very hostile environment. At worse, he will be a danger to himself and the rest of the crew on the ISS. It is one thing to place himself at personal risk but quite another to place the astronauts committed to building a space laboratory at risk of their lives. Under these circumstances, this type of public relations stunt cannot be justified, and NASA should not accept this bullying by Russia.

Finally, I expect NASA to provide the Senate VA/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee with a summary of all ISS partnership responsibilities for each partner nation as well as a complete review of the ISS decisionmaking process, including all procedures for ensuring the compliance of all partner nations with this process. I also ask to be advised of the steps NASA has taken to minimize any risks to ISS crew members due to the potential distraction of Mr. Tito on the ISS. Also, please provide a formal risk assessment of Mr. Tito’s presence on the ISS, his expected participation in Station activities and the level of training he is expected to receive or has received. When and if Mr. Tito goes to the ISS, I pray that all goes well. Nevertheless, I remind NASA that it remains responsible to take all necessary steps to maintain the safety of the ISS crew.


Christopher S. Bond