...FAA Plan Not Safe Enough, Congressman Says...

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U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), however, thinks the FAA's approach to space safety is too lax. Last Thursday, Oberstar introduced a bill that would amend last December's space tourism legislation to allow the FAA to take a more "pro-active" stand on passenger safety. Oberstar decried the "tombstone mentality" of the December legislation, which prohibits the FAA from issuing safety regulations for the next eight years unless there is a potentially catastrophic incident. His bill would require that the FAA include, in each license it issues, minimum standards to protect the health and safety of crews and space flight participants. Oberstar is a member of the House Aviation Subcommittee. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey testified before that committee at a hearing last Wednesday. "Ensuring safety often is an evolutionary process," she said. "Commercial space launches are inherently dangerous and risky operations ... As a result, the approach to safety in the commercial space arena differs from the approach for civil aviation, where safety is achieved with the high reliability of today's aircraft. The FAA's safety focus in commercial space transportation has been on protecting the general public and their property from the dangers inherent in such operations."