Ansari: Space Tourism Regs Not “Industry Friendly” Enough

MarsDrive has an interview with space tourist and entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari. She described her flight to the International Space Station, waxed enthusiastically about the future of space tourism, and called on governments to loosen regulations on space tourism companies.

“Cost is definitely an inhibitor at this time,” Ansari admits. “We need established, sustainable businesses in the private industry using space flights to bring down the per flight cost.

“Also the regulatory and insurance requirements is another hindrance for the industry. I think we need new technology to be able to lower the cost of orbital flights. There should be greater collaboration between private industries and the regulatory bodies to be able to come up industry friendly regulation that will at the same time encourage passenger safety,” she added.

Most of her comments make sense, but the regulatory one is curious. At least in the United States, it seems that the commercial space industry has gotten more or less everything it has wanted from the industry friendly, anti-regulation Bush Administration and several states vying for its business.

The FAA has taken a very light hand on regulation, companies have received tax exemptions while they make tens of millions selling expensive vacations to billionaires, and “zero liability” laws mean that customers and their survivors can’t sue for injury or death except in the event of gross negligence.

NASA has become increasingly business friendly. Giant companies fly their private corporate aircraft out of Moffett Field for modest annual fees. And New Mexico is spending nearly $200 million on a spaceport whose anchor tenant will be a space tourism effort whose financial backers include aerospace giant Northrop Grumman (2007 annual revenues: $8.3 billion), Paul Allen (net worth: $16.8 billion), and Richard Branson (net worth: $7.9 billion).

I can see what Ansari is talking about in terms of wanting to deepen public-private collaboration. There are definite synergies there. But, it seems like the industry is getting a lot already. And what else does it want in terms of regulatory relief?