For more information, please call: Rick Tumlinson at 212-387-7887

"Space Group Calls for Radical New Approach to Space Station in Congressional Testimony"

November 8, Washington, DC: In prepared testimony before the House Science Committee today, Space Frontier Foundation Senior Advisor Tom Rogers called on the Congress to re-shape the Space Station program as the kernel of the first economically self sustaining town in orbit.

Rogers, who is also the Chairman of the Sophron Foundation, made this point: "Alpha Town encompasses the concept of the station as the financial and institutional hub of a business park....yet Alpha Town goes beyond these ideas, to create an overarching new mindset for the entire human space program in LEO that is easy to understand ... It comes directly from our American heritage and feeds directly into our national hunger for a purpose in the new millennium."

According to Rogers and the Foundation, at the core of the Alpha Town concept lies one very important truth that demands a serious reordering of national space priorities: "All of us who have a serious interest in America's future in space must remind ourselves every day that our country's highest priority must be to get the unit cost of basic space infrastructure, especially space transportation, down by orders of magnitude."

The Space Frontier Foundation, a leading space advocacy organization that was once a vehement opponent of the station, sponsored Rogers' testimony as part of congressional hearings on "NASA Purchasing in the Earth Space Economy." The organization is promoting the "Alpha Town" concept, that would focus the now ambiguous mission of the station to being the catalyst for the first human "town" in space, a goal it believes would attract much stronger support from the general public. Among the important actions called for in Rogers' testimony were:

  1. Handing over the operation of the US portion of the station to an innovative commercial contractor as soon as possible, with the understanding that the facility be operated in an entrepreneurial, profit oriented and cost reducing manner.

  2. Competitively bid all payloads and passenger flights to and from the US portion of the station amongst US launch firms.

  3. Requiring that all expansion of the US portion of the station beyond the current design be leased from US commercial firms.

  4. Assuring that all domestic and international laws, treaties and agreements involving Alpha Town create a level playing field for US firms and act to encourage private investment in space.

Foundation President Rick Tumlinson commended Science Committee Chair Robert Walker (R-PA) for initiating the hearings: "Congressman Walker is one of the more visionary leaders on the Hill, who sees space not as a program but as a place where people will one day live and work. He knows that we can't continue to pour billions of tax dollars into space without the prospect of an economic return to the American public." He continued:"Converting the civil Space Station program into a economically viable outpost in orbit - the heart of "Alpha Town," achieve's the Chairman's vision - it makes the project relevant, gives it an easily understandable rationale for the taxpayers and will eventually make human space flight as important to the American public as airline travel is today."

The Foundation's testimony cites the historical analogy of cities and towns in the US and Europe that originally grew up around government forts and outposts in its call for the entire program to begin moving in this direction. They see the facility as the Federal heart of a bustling free enterprise based community, carrying on all types of activities, from science, to new product development and tourism. The organization has claimed some success in this area, as the agency takes what the group considers small steps in the right direction.

According to Tumlinson: "It seems NASA's leadership is really trying to do the right thing. It's like old Ma Bell trying to kick start her own Baby Bells from the inside. For example, awarding the space shuttle operations to a single prime contractor is a good first step towards entirely privatizing our nation's launch services." He continued: "However, the next step is to assure that the new shuttle contractor doesn't simply replace NASA as a monopoly. That means they must not be allowed to also operate the space station. That would be a disaster for free enterprise."

The Space Frontier Foundation, which coined the term "Cheap Access to Space," a catch phrase for change in space circles, is a grass roots organization of American citizens dedicated to opening the space frontier to human exploration and settlement as rapidly as possible.

For more information and background on the Foundation and other issues relating to space policy, call 212-387-7887.

For general information on how to support the Foundation, call 1-800-78SPACE or