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US draws up space tourism rules

BBC News | January 8, 2005

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

Companies should give passengers safety advice including the number of flights the spacecraft has been on and any problems they have experienced with the craft, according to further recommendations in the report.

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.

The draft regulations could come into force soon, as the first space tourists have already made it into low orbit around the Earth.

In 2004, Burt Rutan witnessed the successful launch of SpaceShipOne, as his team won the $10m prize for having the first private ship to fly 100km above Earth's surface.

By the end of this decade, Virgin Galactic aims to take people into space from a spaceport in New Mexico.

After consulting the public, the FAA should publish its final report before June 2006.

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