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Space tourism hearing turns into ISS debate
Posted: Wed, Jun 27, 2001, 9:44 AM ET (1344 GMT)
Dennis Tito on a Russian zero-g plane, courtesy Space Adventures A Congressional hearing on the topic of space tourism Tuesday turned into a debate between Dennis Tito and a NASA official about the capabilities of the International Space Station. The debate was instigated when Tito, who spent a week on the station earlier this year as the first commercial space tourist, noted in his testimony that there was both room and life support capacity on ISS today to support six-person crews, rather than the three-person crews NASA says the station can accommodate. This was disputed by Michael Hawes, NASA deputy associate administrator for the space station, who said that the station cannot handle six-person crews over long periods of time. This debate, fueled by a number of questions by members of the House Science Committee's space subcommittee, overshadowed at times the original intent of the hearing, to look into the field of space tourism and the role, if any, the government should play. Some attention has given to tourism, though, including a proposal by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin to sell extra seats on shuttle missions at $20 million each, generating potentially over $1 billion in revenue for the cash-strapped agency over the next several years at present flight rates. Hawes shot down the proposal, saying that even shuttle missions to the station with empty seats are often at their full payload capacity with no room for additional passengers. Members of Congress also criticized NASA for not having any formal meetings with Tito since his flight.
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