- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Thinking of spending that next vacation on the moon or Mars or circling the Earth? Before liftoff, there’s a list of things the would-be “space flight participant” should know.

More than 120 pages of proposed rules, released by the government yesterday, regulate the future of space tourism. The list touches on everything from passenger medical standards to preflight training for the crew.

Before taking the trip, companies would be required to inform the “space flight participant” — known in more earthly settings as a passenger — of the risks. Passengers also would be required to provide written consent before boarding a vehicle for takeoff.

Legislation signed a year ago by President Bush and designed to help the space industry flourish prohibits the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from issuing safety regulations for passengers and crew for eight years, unless specific design features or operating practices cause a serious or fatal injury.

“This means that the FAA has to wait for harm to occur or almost occur before it can impose restrictions, even against foreseeable harm,” the proposal says. “Instead, Congress requires that space flight participants be informed of the risks.”

Physical exams for passengers are recommended, but will not be required, “unless a clear public safety need is identified,” the FAA says in the proposed regulations.

Passengers also would have to be trained on how to respond during emergencies, including the loss of cabin pressure, fire and smoke, as well as how to get out of the vehicle safely.

Pilots, meanwhile, must have an FAA pilot certificate and be able to show that they know how to operate the vehicle. Student or sport pilot licenses would not qualify.

Each member of the crew must have a medical certificate issued within a year of the flight, and a crew member’s physical and mental state must “be sufficient to perform safety-related roles,” the rules say.

The FAA also would require each crew member to be trained to ensure that the vehicle will not harm the public, such as if it had to be abandoned during a flight emergency.

The legislation that Mr. Bush signed last year required the FAA to come up with rules to regulate the commercial space flight industry, which has been slow in getting off the ground.

In 2001, California businessman Dennis Tito became the world’s first space tourist when he rode a Russian Soyuz capsule to the International Space Station.

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