October 26, 2011
Honorable Ralph Hall
House Committee on Science, Space & Technology
2405 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515-0001
Dear Chairman Hall:
I am the Chairman and Co-Founder of Space Adventures, Ltd., the world's leading space experience provider. Our company has sold all eight spaceflight missions to the seven private space explorers who have visited the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft over the past decade. We are also proud to be partnered with Boeing Space Exploration as a member of their Commercial Crew Development team.
Thank you for holding a full committee hearing to gain industry's perspective on NASA's vital commercial crew initiative. I am writing to you on behalf of our partner to provide you and your colleagues some additional insight into the existing and potential commercial market for orbital human spaceflight.
First and foremost, it is not fair to say that because "only" eight seats have been sold there is no significant market for orbital human spaceflight. The primary limiting factor in the sales of orbital space missions has been the relative lack of supply. For the last few years, especially, Russia has provided 100% of its available seats to the NASA and the other international partners.
Second, while no one knows exactly how large the market is, I can assure you that Space Adventures is in contact with many, many prospective customers who are interested in flying, able to purchase a spaceflight, and ready to sign up... if only there were seats available. Furthermore, even as Russian costs and seat prices increased substantially over the past decade, we saw no significant reduction in interest on the part of customers.
Third, every customer who has flown to space from Russia has had to spend six months away from their regular lives undergoing tests, extensive training and language instruction in Russia. For many, this cost is actually greater than the price of a ticket. One of the first questions every prospective customer asks in some form is: "when can I fly from the U.S.?"
That question is a good one for your hearing. Why shouldn't America, as we seek to lead the world in exploring beyond Earth orbit, also lead in the commercial application of human spaceflight? Shouldn't space tourism create new jobs here, rather than in Russia?
Of course, it is not NASA's or Congress' job to create a space tourism industry. But it is NASA's mandate, as Congress defined it in the NASA Act, to promote the fullest possible commercial use of space. I can tell you that my industry is just waiting for safe, frequent, and affordable access so it can start to satisfy the pent-up demand of tens of thousands of people around the world that want to experience spaceflight.
That is why it is so important that Congress provide NASA with full funding for the Commercial Crew Transportation program so that multiple companies can compete against each other in developing new systems as quickly as possible. By creating safe, robust and affordable access to low Earth orbit, NASA and industry will not only solve our space program's need for astronaut transport to and from ISS, we will also begin to drive down the cost of human activity in space, and discover entire new industries and other beneficial opportunities in low Earth orbit.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide my thoughts on this important and timely topic.
Eric C. Anderson
Space Adventures, Ltd.
Cc: Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson, Ranking Member
Honorable Steven Palazzo, Chairman, Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics
Honorable Jerry Costello, Acting Ranking Member