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Spaceflight And Personal Risk

Reda Anderson is talking about her turn-ons and turn-offs to be a space passenger. She wants an astronaut as a pilot, not an airline pilot. She doesn't want to wear a space suit. She doesn't want to be released from the seat--she's not that into weightlessness or floating around. In fact she doesn't want to wear anything that she perceives as increasing her risk. She'll be training with the Civil Aerospace Mediacal Institute in Oklahoma. She reduces her risk by finding out as much as she can, by attending conferences and visiting Rocketplane, for whom she's the number one customer. She doesn't want a round-trip ticket. She wants to go up in one place and come down in another (e.g., Oklahoma to Mojave). She's a repeat customer. Thanking us for our life-long interest in space so that she as an interloper can come along and enjoy the experience.

Ken Gosier is a member of the Suborbital Spaceflight Club, which is a high-end club (thousand dollars a year) that allows you to stay in touch with what's going on (recently had a dinner at Dennis Tito's house). Has suggestions about what to do to make people feel safe (in addition to actually being safe). Be open about testing and engineering process. Show failures as well as successes. Uses example of Masten blog as an example of openness while not scaring away investors (investor page describes only successes).

Randall Clague, government liaison and safety officer for XCOR.

It's not "welcome to the revolution." For safety, it's "welcome to the evolution." Pointing out that George Nield said things yesterday that made sense to libertarians, which is a revolution itself, that a government employee would do that. They don't know how to regulate safety, other than to bring it up to Shuttle standards (which kills people, and XCOR doesn't want to do that). Makes the familiar (at least to regular readers of this blog) point that reusable vehicles have to be safe, regardless of the payload, or they're not economically viable. We should appreciate just how revolutionary the Congress and FAA approach is, that they're willing to be hands off on passenger safety. XCOR plans incremental approach, with many flight tests prior to revenue service. They don't like EZ-Rocket because it has operability issues. Their next vehicle will apply lessons learned, and be more reliable and safe.

They won't be flying "passengers" (they won't be taking passage from point A to point B). They use the term participant. Passenger has too many liability implications. Informed consent is the key to safety for spaceflight participants. He's happy to hear a customer like Reda who is focused on safety, because he is as well. Talking about the D. D. Harriman story, when his board of directors got an injunction against him going to the moon. He violated it, went to the moon and died there. This was informed consent, but it presents an ethical problem: should XCOR fly someone who has a good chance of dying? His initial take was no, but Jeff Greason convinced him that informed consent is informed consent. The customer is always right. Different companies have different approaches to the experience. Reda doesn't want to unstrap, but Virgin will allow this (though they are rethinking whether or not to let them float). XCOR and Xerus will stay in a pressure suit in their seat. There are different providers for different markets. Allowing someone to get out of seats requires a steward, which is one less seat for passengers. They will require a suit because they want redundancy in life support. There will be a number of different providers, with more experiences and more choices for the customer. This is fantastic [simberg aside, it's also good because it will allow us to learn a lot more lessons a lot sooner]. Their saying is "boring is beautiful." They want to make it boring, at least for the pilot.

Reda says "If anything happens to me, don't stop. This industry must go on." This is a new venture, and if you can't accept risk, don't fly. She agrees that she doesn't like terms tourist or passenger--she likes being a participant. She is not a payload. She wants to come back equal or better than when she came up there, and to keep her in mind with all of the design activities. She notes that she's gone to see the Titanic, and the crushing pressures outside were far worse than the space environment.


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 23, 2006 10:01 AM.

Space And Mass Media was the previous entry in this blog.

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