Jeff Foust has an interesting column at The Space Review today about use of the word “tourist” to apply to private citizens traveling into space.
Unlike Rick Tumlinson, I’ve never minded the term all that much–it captures a lot of what we’re trying to accomplish in a single word, and clearly differentiates it from the NASA astronaut paradigm. And as Jeff points out, it’s easier to criticize it than to come up with an alternative that people will readily use. In the nineties, when Dan Goldin’s NASA could be cajoled or pressured into paying any attention to the subject at all, they resisted using the word, preferring the phrase “public space travel.”
But Jeff makes a point that I’d never previously considered. If the resistance to the new launch legislation allowing space passenger travel without heavy FAA regulation for passenger safety arose from the use of the word, perhaps we do need to come up with substitute, at least in a formal sense. Clearly, the early flights for the next few years are not going to be for the masses, expecting airline-like safety, but if Reps DeFazio and Oberstar had the mistaken impression that they were, due to the t-word, it may be time to give it more thought.
How about “space adventurer”?