...But Will Seatbelts Be Close Behind?
As the space-tourism industry struggles to invent itself, Jane Reifert, president of Incredible Adventures, of Sarasota, Fla., told MSNBC last week that tour operators must be careful about "overpromising" what their flights can deliver. "I can imagine people placing deposits on $200,000-plus flights, thinking they'll be able to float around," when in fact, she said, passengers may be required to stay strapped in their seats. "It just may be a huge disappointment if it's not what they've been properly prepared to expect," Reifert said. The FAA has yet to issue passenger-safety rules for spacecraft, but Virgin Galactic and Burt Rutan have said they plan to allow customers to float in the cabin for four to six minutes of weightlessness, though perhaps with a tether to their seat. Taber MacCallum and Grant Anderson of Paragon Space Development Corp. in Tucson, Ariz., gave MSNBC some pointers that they think will help space operators produce happy customers: Train the passengers about what to expect and how to move in low gravity, be sure windows are clean and big enough to offer a great view, and have a plan in place to quickly deal with vomit, odors and passengers' need for a bathroom break.