Out of Control Policy Blog

Private Space Travel Possible if only Government Would Get Out of the Way

A healthy suborbital space travel industry, complete with space hotels and trips to the moon and beyond, is possible if only government will restrain from stifling creativity and innovation with burdensome regulations. So said Burt Rutan, leader of the SpaceShipOne team that became the first to launch a privately-funded human spaceflight in 2004, at the 25th International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles recently.

According to a space.com article:

Rutan said that he remains worried about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial space transportation regulations, tagging it a dilemma. There remain several sticky, red tape rules that may well cripple experimental research and development of passenger-carrying space planes.

Such rules are inhibiting the prospect that a sustainable suborbital space travel industry can be established, Rutan argued.

Rutan also criticized NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle program and plans to revisit the Moon, likening NASA's efforts to archeology. Said Rutan, They are forcing the program to be done with technology that we already know works. They are not creating an environment where it is possible to have a breakthrough. . . . If we copy what we had it won't be affordable enough or safe enough.

Rutan has thus hit upon the critical difference between efforts driven by market forces and those driven by political decisions and ambitions. Market entrepreneurship encourages risk and demands results. Political entrepreneurship only seeks to further political goals and careers—even when those efforts contradict the laws of economics and cannot be held accountable.

Rutan continues to put his money where his mouth is. He and his Scaled Composites company are busy developing a fleet of suborbital spaceliners and two giant carrier planes for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Gallactic venture.

Adam Summers is Senior Policy Analyst


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