2002 Futron Study One Basis of Optimism About Commercial Human Space Flight Says OSTP Staffer

2002 Futron Study One Basis of Optimism About Commercial Human Space Flight Says OSTP Staffer

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) staff told the National Research Council (NRC) today that a 2002 study by Futron is one of three “data points” that the White House used in crafting its commercial crew strategy.

In response to a question as to what market analysis was done to demonstrate that there is a non-government market for sending people into space, OSTP staffer Rich Leshner told a joint meeting of the NRC’s Space Studies Board (SSB) and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) that OSTP had three data points indicating there is “a chance for a market there”:

  • eight people have paid $25 million each to fly as tourists on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft;
  • more than 100 non-U.S. astronauts have flown to low Earth orbit on U.S. or Russian spacecraft either paying in cash or “in kind” contributions; and
  • a 2002 Futron study combined with a poll by Zogby International looking at the U.S. market for orbital flights indicated there would be a “robust” market in 2020.

He did not address how relevant the Futron study would be today under the significantly changed economic circumstances since 2002. (Editor’s Note: The Futron study forecast that, for orbital flights, by 2021 “60 passengers may be flying annually, representing revenues in excess of US$300 million.”)

Mr. Leshner was part of a panel of OSTP and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) staff members discussing the FY2011 budget for NASA and NOAA at the SSB/ASEB meeting. Another panel member, OMB Branch Chief Paul Shawcross, stressed that the Constellation program was not “realistic” and since the International Space Station is “crucial,” he asked “what was the alternative?” In response to another question about when more details will be available, Mr. Shawcross said that NASA was working on them with input from the White House, but they are not yet ready to be released adding “there’s more out there already than people realize.”

A panel of House and Senate committee staff followed the White House panel. Richard Obermann, staff director of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee, and Ed Feddeman, his Republican counterpart, both said that the committee’s February 25 hearing demonstrated that their members support the budget request for science, aeronautics and technology development, but not the human space flight component. Dr. Obermann quoted committee chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) as saying that he was not certain there were sufficient votes in the committee to win approval for the President’s request. Dr. Feddeman stressed that not only were his members skeptical of the scant information the President provided about the plan, but they were offended by the fact that the White House provided advance information to select reporters while embargoing information to Congress.

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Republican staff member Jeff Bingham said that his committee had not yet had time to review the request other than for the human space flight component. He explained that the bill recently introduced by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (S. 3068) was intended to stimulate discussion about those issues. He said the bill was not about extending the shuttle program for its own sake, but only if it is needed to ensure the International Space Station is sustainable through 2020.

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