Oberstar and the threat to US space tourism

In an essay in this week’s issue of The Space Review, Taylor Dinerman addresses the potential threat to the emerging space tourism industry in the US posed by Rep. James Oberstar. The Minnesota Democrat is poised to become the chairman of the House Transportation Committee in January when the 110th Congress convenes. Oberstar led an effort two years ago to try and get more stringent passenger safety requirements included in the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, requirements many in the industry thought could kill the industry before it could get started. Oberstar submitted similar legislation early last year, but the legislation was referred to the House Science Committee, where it never saw the light of day. Some fear that with the power of a committee chairmanship, Oberstar would have the power to give his proposed legislation a better chance at passage.

The saving grace may be in Dinerman’s last sentence: “One hopes that the new Congress will have enough to do so that it just leaves space tourism alone, at least for the next five years or so.” Oberstar’s own committee has a broad purview, and commercial space transportation would presumably have a low priority compared to aviation, highways, and the like. We will find out soon enough just how important this issue is to both Rep. Oberstar and supporters of the existing regulatory system in Congress.

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