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Space tourists = space TERRORISTS?

I'm trying very hard not to laugh over this...honest I am. But get a load of the latest bizarre directive from the FAA:

Space tourists must be screened to ensure they are not terrorists, according to proposed regulations from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

The draft report's suggestions aim to prevent a terrorist from destroying a spacecraft or using it as a weapon.

However, the report has no strict proposals on the health of any would-be space tourists.

The suggestions will affect Sir Richard Branson's enterprise which aims to launch people into space this decade.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is attempting to regulate the commercial space industry in a bid to ensure minimum safety standards.

It has recommended security checks similar to those for airline passengers.

The FAA also suggests space tourism companies check the global "no-fly" list, from the US Homeland Security Department, to exclude potential terrorists.

"New technologies carry new risks. Nonetheless, Congress recognises that private industry has begun to develop commercial launch vehicles capable of carrying human beings into space, and greater private investment in these efforts will stimulate the nation's commercial space transportation industry as a whole," said the report.

"The public interest is served by creating a clear legal, regulatory, and safety regime for commercial human spaceflight."

There is so much that's ludicrous about all this, it's hard to know where to begin. But here goes:

First of all, I can't see there ever being that many "space tourists". Affordability is the prime factor--the vast majority of us just don't make enough money to pop $20 million for a ticket to the International Space Station.

And those of us that do, are pretty easily checked out for possible terrorist connections--wouldn't you think? I mean, if you're going to be taking that money to send someone into space, you kind of want to know that he's not Osama, right? I would expect an extensive background check is already in place on any non-astronaut intending to fly along on space missions.

Or are they trying to tell us that space tourists just aren't all that well-vetted to begin with? This passage makes me wonder:

Space tourists should also be given pre-flight training to handle emergency situations such as a loss of cabin pressure or fire.

However, the FAA has so far left any medical requirements in the hands of the tourist, who should decide themselves if they are fit to fly.

By that standard, I expect they'll also be given a lecture on the evils of terrorism and should decide for themselves if they are worth trusting on a billion-dollar mission. Uh-huh.

And what's more ludicrous is the notion that private companies should be allowed to offer trips to space, for whatever the market will bear--even if the flight barely lasts long enough for the travellers to blink. The amount of fuel alone that's needed would make such things prohibitively expensive in more ways than one. And given that we are probably already past the Hubbert Peak of oil production, that means a fuel crunch could well scuttle this whole venture before it ever gets off the ground. We simply don't have the resources on Earth for anyone to make this kind of thing profitable. Any alternative fuel technology is going to be put primarily toward travel on Earth. At that rate, good luck getting any private, commercial spacecraft beyond the drawing board!

Here's a better idea for the FAA: Why not just put the kibosh to space tourism before it goes gaga--by keeping all NASA flights strictly for trained researchers and refusing all pay-to-play passangers? A more irresponsible form of conspicuous consumption is hard for me to imagine. Space is, or should be, the province of scientists, not daredevil dilettantes with money to burn. Perhaps all these other would-be Dennis Titos should consider a wiser earthly use of all their boodle--such as researching alternative energy sources.

It would make for one helluva trip, trust me.

Comments

I think someone at the FAA has been watching too many James Bond films. What do they think... that people who go on a space tourism flight might actually be up there undercover to secretly set up space weapons or something?

I'm so sure it's easy-peasy to smuggle stuff like that in among space-tourist luggage.