DOT Addresses Space Tourism -- Real By 2008?

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Commercial spacecraft could be cleared to carry passengers by 2008, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said last Thursday. Speaking to a group of space entrepreneurs at the 9th Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C., Mineta said that a number of companies should be set to take passengers into space by then and the DOT would be ready to clear those flights. "This timeline isn't based on science fiction," Mineta said. "It is a timeline based on the reality of where commercial space is today and where we expect the state of commercial space to be within two short years ... We will move quickly to green-light flights that we know are safe." Mineta said he expects to issue permits next year to allow test flights, and if those flights are successful, the DOT will then issue a license for passenger space travel. He added that if companies complete testing sooner, the DOT also would be ready. "When the industry is set for lift-off, we will be ready to launch," Mineta said. "We have an important role to play in ensuring the safety of commercial space flights, especially for passengers. But we also have an obligation to encourage innovation and support new developments."