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Building Alpha Town
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the First City in Space

Testimony Before The House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee
Washington D.C., April 9, 1997

Rick Tumlinson
President – Space Frontier Foundation
It is early in the 19th century. Lewis and Clark have just returned from exploring the West. Excited by their findings, President Jefferson declares the region to be a Federal Reserve. A new Waggonautics and Wildernautics Agency is created to mange the frontier. Scientists are consulted as to what to do with this new land, and government engineers called in to develop a new Conestoga Wagon and Log Cabin capable of dealing with the extreme conditions encountered by the explorers.

Some thirty years after the original expedition a small but relatively high tech cabin is reaching completion some hundred miles west of the Mississippi. Serviced by a completely self sufficient giant Conestoga Shuttle, the cabin faces delay after delay as government priorities shift, and there is doubt as to if it will ever be ready for its first four Wildernauts. As endless debates between engineers and scientists continue as to its usefulness, with some proposing the development of unmanned wagon trains to lower the risks to humans...an entire generation of potential pioneers are denied the chance to move out into the new world...

Written Testimony
(A much abridged version of this testimony, appearing under the title: "NASA: Landlord or Lewis and Clark", appeared in the Wall Street Journal)

The International Space Station has been delayed again, sliding from an initial planned deployment late this fall to sometime next year. This is not much of a surprise to NASA watchers, as it has already been pushed back some dozen times since the original 1992 completion date announced by President Reagan in 1984. Along with each delay the cost has also increased, mushrooming from the original tab of $8 billion dollars to the almost $40 to $100 billion dollars it is running today. There have also been so many shifts in its alleged purpose as to make the projects' current goals almost indefinable. In fact, when pressed, NASA managers now say the goal of building the station is to learn how to build a space station.

So what do we do? Cancel it? No. We could have done so a few years ago, and in fact I was one of those leading that fight, but now we are too far down the road to give up. Most of the major elements are already built or close to completion. Tens of thousands of Americans and workers around the world have sweated for over a decade to make this thing fly, and the damage to our new and old space industries would be devastating. Finally, to walk away would send a terrible signal to our children and the people of the world about America's ability to lead them across President Clinton's "bridge to the 21st century." So, since there is no lemon law that applies to giant government projects, I suggest it's time to start making some lemonade.

The first thing to do is to recall the space agency's' mission in our society. If you asked that question of the taxpayers who fund it, they would probably answer that NASA's job is exploration. NASA is today's version of Lewis and Clark, its job is to blaze new trails, to be pathfinders, to explore, to push back the human horizon...

But NASA can't afford to do these things, as its budget is increasingly being sucked into the station and space shuttle programs. Put another way, our proud explorers have been saddled with the job of managing a building in space and driving the delivery trucks to keep it supplied. Thus, exciting news about possible past and present life conditions on Mars and Jupiter's moon Europa can't be thoroughly checked out, and there is little or no money to develop new leading edge space technologies. Meanwhile, its bureaucracy has set up shop just a hundred miles overhead, claimed low Earth orbit as its own, and any development and exploitation of the territories it has explored so well in the near Earth domain is stifled. It is as if Jefferson, after hearing the results of Lewis and Clarks' expedition, had decided to turn the west into a federal reserve, banning all settlement and development.

So why do we have a crack team of explorers acting as landlords? After all, when stripped of the space mystique, the station is merely a combination port, hotel and research lab in orbit.

It will have almost the same categories of costs and overhead as any other such facility on earth. Under government management and protected from free market forces one can be sure those costs will be sky high (or higher in this particular case). These costs mean a continuation of the self fulfilling prophecy of space being too expensive for all but deep pocketed government players. Not only will money America could be spending on exciting exploration projects such as the search for life be going to pay utility bills, but the high costs will freeze out any who might wish to experiment with new products or carry on scientific research. In the end, the space station, far from being the next logical step towards the true opening of the space frontier would be the bar across the door to our future. You see, there's a funny little rule about settling new frontiers – Nobody stays until somebody pays. And in our society, it is industry, products and services that write the paychecks.

To make matters worse, the bureaucracy that runs the facility has no time nor inclination to support commercial ventures. If an entrepreneur were to walk into NASA with a billion dollars and try to rent a rack on the wall of the station to house a potentially groundbreaking experiment, they couldn't do it. There is no system to allow for such activities. There is no way to put together a fundable business plan based on the station. No one can you how much a kilowatt of power costs, how much an astronaut's time is worth, or even how to get your materials and products there and back. Most likely, even as they were trying to figure out these basic business questions, the agency would be bartering away the needed space to a foreign partner in government to government deals.

This is what must be changed. Running the station is the wrong job for our space agency. Let's face it, such mundane tasks as being a landlord or truck driver are not what an organization like NASA is designed to do. NASA is an exploration and advanced research organization, not a construction, trucking and building management firm. Those are jobs that our private sector does, and does very well, in every other environment on Earth, from downtown Manhattan to the extreme conditions of the North Sea.

The way to flip this entire equation on its head is simple. As soon as the station is completed, it's management should be handed over to the private sector. Folks who understand things like the bottom line, contracts, and making money. The space station partners should form an international authority like those used to operate sea or airports. This body will lay out the guidelines for commerce between the station and Earth and within the station between tenants. It will lay out the rules by which the commercial firms will play, enforcing laws on everything from copyright, to patents, to intellectual property rights and arbitrate disputes among users. It will then contract out to a firm or consortium the job of being the station's property managers.

The new commercial landlords will be responsible for everything from signing leases of lab space, fixing and collecting rents, hiring and firing permanent employees (for example, highly paid astronauts are not needed to operate laundry machines and cook stoves) and generally managing station operations. All with an eye to pushing costs down and the anathema to government employees, actually making a profit. The governments who funded and built the facility will of course be the first ones in, acting as anchor tenants, creating an early cash flow, and establishing its credibility as a stable platform for business interests.

To encourage timid business interests to participate in space, tax incentives must be created, just as any town here on earth puts special zoning and tax packages together to get new business to locate in their city limits. In a sense the space station partners will be acting like the city council in any town hungry for economic growth, new jobs and prosperity. This is a completely different mindset from today's "space is ours and you can watch on TV" attitude. In effect they will be hanging a sign on the docking hatch stating this new place in the sky is open for business.

Rather than a financial albatross that weighs down our aspirations in space, the station will become an economic engine that lifts new industries from the Earth out onto the frontier.

In this new commercial environment, firms that have been burned by the space agencies bureaucracy in the past, or those who have heard the horror stories of years long waits to fly, bumped flights or drifting cost estimates will at last have a stable environment in which to work. A contract will be a contract, a deal a deal, and if someone wants to work on a new potential wonder drug or process in secret, they will be protected by the same laws and contracts we enforce everyday on Earth. Old ideas like developing ultra high speed electronic components for computers, to formulating new medicines and treatments will be pulled out of the dead file and dusted off. New and untried or undeveloped ideas, like creating light weight high strength materials such as foam steel, or making new products like self lubricating ball bearings alloyed from titanium and lead can at last be tried. And wild cards we can't even imagine will be pulled from the deck of entrepreneurial ingenuity, as always happens when the game is not stacked, the rules are clear and the game open to all comers.

Using the station as an economic center as well as a research lab benefits everyone. Scientists, also critical of the station's high costs and ill defined support capabilities will also benefit from the stability of a well run building in which to work. They will also be able to do much more research with less money, as they will in effect be partially subsidized by the commercial firm's rent payments.

It will obviously be in the interests of all concerned to bring down the costs of getting tenants, customers supplies and products to and from orbit, as it is with any new commercial development here on terra firm. Thus, national rockets like the government run and operated space shuttles must become a thing of the past, and be replaced by privately run rocket fleets. Considered by many to be the key ingredient to successfully opening space to human settlement, cheap access to the frontier will come as a natural result of free market forces as launch companies compete to carry various payloads to and from this new commercial nexus in space. Additional payload space can then be sold to companies wishing to set up their own facilities, even to paying passengers, such as academics, commercial scientists or even tourists.

Many potential tenants of space stations, such as astronomers or those engaged in delicate crystal growth experiments need extremely stable platforms with which to work, for them the comings and goings of a bustling space facility will be unacceptable. Biologists working on easily contaminated experiments or creating vaccines for easily spread diseases may wish for isolated facilities of their own. Again, in this new economic based model for space station growth, market forces will determine and drive new alternatives.

To serve these divergent needs, other facilities will spring up nearby. For example, Russia's old Mir station, which under current plans might end up as orbital junk will be prime "adjacent" real estate. And the giant 17 story tall space shuttle external tanks that are now dumped into the Indian Ocean can be converted into new "buildings." Once seen as a potential threat to the station's funding by paranoid NASA managers, commercial firms wishing to convert these government surplus assets into new real estate will be encouraged to do so by tax and investment incentives in the orbital space enterprise zone, as precedents set on the station begin to spread beyond its airlocks.

As transportation costs drop and "space" in space becomes available, the first orbital hotels will be constructed. It may sound like pie in the sky right now, but tourism is one of the largest industries on Earth, and there are entire nations on this planet whose economies are based on the tourist dollar. NASA funded research has shown that when the cost of getting into space drops from today's' $5,000 a pound to about a $100 per pound (the long term goal of the commercial follow on to the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33 rocket program) there are people who will pay for the ride, the same ones who now sometimes pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for global "adventure" tours.

As each new market sector is created in and around the station, economic forces go to work, and costs begin to come down. Soon will come the long awaited chance for average citizens like you and I and our children to go there ourselves. Before long, we will see the birth of the first true town in space. "Alpha Town" – "First Town" will be born.

Imagine, just as we enter the 21st century, the intrepid human and robotic Lewis and Clarks of NASA will be freed from going in endless circles around the Earth, and once again push out "to go where no one has gone before." Meanwhile, the shopkeepers and business people and entrepreneurs and settlers who invariably follow such explorations will move out into near Earth space and begin to build there a new human domain.

If one looks to history, each time careful exploration has been followed by the might of the free enterprise machine, miracles have happened, usually far exceeding and outpacing even the wildest dreams of those initiating the quest. Thus, I believe, if this model is adopted, it is quite possible that in your lifetime humanity will begin the irreversible settlement of space. And no more than a few decades hence stretched out above us in the night, for all on Earth to see, a string of tiny pearls of light, representing humanity's first community in the sky, will remind a pessimistic world that the greatest age in human history has just begun.

end testimony


Rick Tumlinson
President – Space Frontier Foundation

America Needs a New Frontier

We are approaching a new millennium, and we don't know what awaits us on the other side. As a people, we have created the greatest civilization of all time, yet we wonder aloud as to our destiny, and look to the future with apprehension. The answer surrounds us – it would shout in our faces if it had a voice. We even took our first few steps into the domain where it lies, but then we turned away to wander lost between the past and an uncertain tomorrow.


After more than 30 years, space should be home of the leading edge of the American dream, a thriving economic and social arena, a place of hopes and vision for all humanity. But this is not so and may never be. Rather, our timid forays there are perceived as expensive and irrelevant luxuries. The reason is simple – our current space program is not and has never been designed to actually open the frontier to those who might realize its full potential - the people themselves.

To put it another way, after thirty years and billions of dollars, you nor anyone you know, nor their children, is closer to being able to go into space in their lifetime. When asked to compare what they would spend on our space program as opposed to other federal expenditures, most people put space last. They are not buying because they are not excited, not included, and they do not see where the program is leading at a fundamental gut level. It has no relationship to them or their children, it provides no hope of participation and addresses none of their perceived physical, economic and spiritual needs.

Let the People Go

To those in the Space Frontier Foundation the answer to this ironic dilemma is obvious and powerful. Let the people go. Opening the frontier must become the central activity of the nation as soon as possible. We can use this great tool called our space program, we can rework it so that it leverages large numbers of us into the frontier, and we can use it to pry the untold riches of space from a harsh and unforgiving place and make that place a human domain.

In other words, the federal government's role in space must be to help Americans begin their new national mission, the opening and settlement of the frontier.

Our current space program is not designed to do this. Therefore, we must change it. From the top down and the bottom up a new mission for the space agency must be created. It must be restructured to create an ever larger wedge of civilian activities and it must have as its explicit and operational goal opening the frontier to American enterprises as soon as possible. And as the centerpiece of that program we must transform the federal building in space we once called and will call again "Alpha."

Government's Role on the Frontier

Throughout history governments have often placed their own facilities along their frontiers. From major cities of Europe born outside the gates of early Roman forts, to towns all across the American West, the catalyzing effects of these tax funded government facilities on their respective frontiers is obvious. Governments have routinely worked through their military, with dominant religions and via quasi private corporations to establish facilities of many sorts along their frontiers. These have often functioned as the nuclei around which towns have grown. Staffed with government employees who purchased all they needed to live from those around them, these outposts functioned as micro market makers, creating demands for a wide range of goods and services, the purveyors of which also being the customers for each other.

As an official government operation, the forts had to be connected to their capitols, and transportation routes were often established or improved at government expense that could be safely used by all. Last and by no means least, the official extension of confidence in their dominion exemplified by the fort gave all interested in trying their hand in the wilderness official permission to go for it. We believe that if it is to be relevant to our future, the International Space Station (ISS) can and must become the heart of just such a new town on the frontier of space.

We commend Dan Goldin for beginning to discuss the commercial uses in and around the ISS, but this time it needs to be more than rhetoric, and this commitment must permeate NASA beyond his inner circle. Alpha Town goes far beyond anything the agency has ever considered, to create an overarching new mind set for the entire human space program creates a new relationship between the Federal and private sectors in LEO that is easy to understand, to explain, and creates a new image for human space activities.

Whereas many station proposals deal with the "how" when it comes to private and commercial activities, the nation has not yet bought into the "why" in this context. Alpha Town answers this question. It comes directly from our American heritage and feeds directly into our national hunger for a purpose in the new millennium. What follows is a set of Alphatown principles designed to work in concert to create the first growing and economically viable human town on the new frontier.

Opening the Roads

If you can't get people and goods to and from a place cheaply and easily, it is economically useless. It is no accident that our society is characterized by a highly efficient transportation system. The highways that provide us with quick and easy transportation to and from the workplace allow us to increase both our income and the wealth of the nation. Thus, our first need is for low cost and reliable mass transportation to and from the frontier for people and goods. Low cost access to the old west was accelerated by federally developed roads, canals and railroads, upon whose completion users began paying fees in the form of taxes and then competed for freight and passengers. After early support through favorable regulations and even some financial support, the government's role then became that of traffic cop and safety enforcers. Cheap Access to Space (a phrase coined by the Foundation) can be achieved through a similar relationship, based on the mutual needs of government and free enterprise.

The era of national spaceships must end.

It is absolutely imperative that NASA gets out of the space transportation operations market. Unlike the space shuttle program, the X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) effort must not be allowed to develop into another high-priced government system. They should be free to operate by commercial rules, free from NASA managers and the paper work they bring with them wherever they go, free to explore new markets. The owners should be free to carry any payloads they chose, at whatever prices the market will bear. The market must be allowed to decide the winners in space transportation. Once we begin Alpha Town there must be no more transportation monopolies.

To help industry develop the fleets which will compete for travel on these space lanes, the priority of the commercial RLV effort must be raised to the top level at NASA, and not just rhetorically. NASA should use some of the money saved by getting out of space shuttle and station operations to build a fleet of widely different X – vehicles with the targets of ease of use, reliability and low cost operations. In the 1960's we produced several entire systems from scratch in less time than that allocated for just the final phase of the X-33 program. Surely the agency can do as well thirty years later if the money is there and the goals are clear. Funding should increase immediately, goals raised and schedules shortened.

Once out of the truck driving business, the government's role in space will be to catalyze the creation of a transportation corridor by using its purchasing power. Such use of the state's market making abilities was employed in the early days of flight, when the U.S. kick started the air industry by subsidizing the delivery of airmail. Just as in that case, the market created by the ISS's needs alone is not large enough to drive major reductions in the unit cost to orbit. But each flight can also carry commercial payloads, and as volume grows, costs will drop. Again, we must look at the fully operating town down the road a few years for a full payoff of our national investment. Yet it is a beginning, and it is understandable by the public and the stockholders of the companies who must build and operate the rockets needed.

Therefore: Alpha Principle One. After completion of the assembly phase, all U.S. government transportation needs to and from Alpha will be competitively bid for by U.S. private firms.

Preparing the Land

In Low Earth Orbit we will not discover raw land to develop. This means we have to create our own "land" there, and that means pressurizable volume. From hangar to closet, if it will hold an atmosphere, propellant or equipment, it has great value. Thus, every usable piece of volume creating hardware we carry into space becomes an instant asset, even if on the Earth it would be seen as expendable. Much so called "space debris," such as discarded rocket stages, have a high value for in space use – if the costs of carrying them there are included.

We must create legal and financial incentives that encourage the recycling of all materials launched into space and the creation of new "land." For example, in the past, as the Russians have upgraded their stations, old facilities have been essentially scrapped. This is an incredible waste. Other examples are the space shuttle's external tanks, containing the volume of up to a seventeen-story building, and now flown 98% of the way to orbit simply to be trashed over the Indian Ocean. They represent true leverage for the new mission of Alpha. Although there are large hurdles regarding orbital inclinations, safety and available propellant on over manifested station flights, if we can salvage even one of these behemoths it would radically increase our usable "land."

Whether recycled or built and launched, any new "land" created in space will need early funding and development work that could be carried out in a cooperative arrangement with the government, much as some infrastructure is often created by local governments to encourage the building of commercial enterprises such as industrial parks, hotels or resorts here on Earth. Also, much legislation will need to be created (and some older laws killed) to enhance the prospect of those who chose to "develop" new lands in space. We must follow our very successful terrestrial real estate models, where communities often provide large tax abatements, tax-free zones, investment credits, a user-friendly regulatory environment and other incentives at the start, to lure companies to build.

Therefore: Alpha Principle Two. The government will put in place legislation to actively encourage and regulate the development and recycling of all space assets.

Building the Town

The needs of government-funded researchers will soon outstrip the capabilities of the ISS. For example, the conflicting demands for stability in micro gravity research and high levels of other activity on the same physical structure suggest that some types of incompatible work would best be done off-site from the government's facility itself. Since our goal is not to grow a larger and larger federal building in space, this need must be accommodated by the government's leasing of facilities from those willing to build and fly dedicated facilities like the now double sized Space Hab module and the previously proposed Industrial Space Facility.

The Alpha Town concept also encompasses and greatly expands the concept of the ISS as the precursor and eventual hub of a business park. Towns are much more than just their industrial bases, and Alpha Town can be no different. Resort hotels are not usually built in industrial parks; people do not live in such areas, nor is building an industrial park alone an uplifting goal for a great nation. Just as here on Earth, Alpha Town will host all sorts of activities in all sorts of facilities, a whole that is greater than its parts.

There are many proposals for building orbiting hotels and tourist facilities in space, a potentially huge market. Although space traditionalists scoff at such ideas, tourism and entertainment are among the largest moneymakers on the Earth. (Disney, Vegas, and a few Caribbean nations come to mind...) This potential market needs to be studied and developed, and given the support it needs to grow.

Therefore: Alpha Principle Three. All expansion of habitable physical structure of the U.S. portion of Alpha will be commercially leased from U.S. private firms.

Turning on the Lights

We have the land, we have a transportation system, now we need energy. (And the potential for a major cash cow down the road would be nice!) The need for electricity in space will be a major show stopper early on. As Alpha quickly becomes covered with gossamer sails of solar cells, it will become a space pilot's nightmare to dock with the station without blowing away a few million dollars worth of equipment. At the same time, each and every other facility in space will need considerable power. Yet, large arrays of solar panels in low Earth orbit also increase a facility's drag, requiring expenditures of station keeping propellants, which is expensive.

These needs converge nicely with the need to explore and develop what may become Alpha Town's equivalent of an oil strike...space generated power, beamed to the user. With Alpha as first a test bed in a two ended system, then as a customer, a well-placed constellation of free flying or tethered Solar Generating Satellites (SolSats) in higher orbits will remove the need to further encumber facilities in Alpha Town. Interestingly, there are many proposals for deep space missions to fly on beamed power, which can be produced at the same facility. Thus, one exciting possible customer will be exploration spacecraft powered by beamed energy technologies.

As the other Alpha town projects come on line they can also begin to buy electricity from the SolSat. They will save millions of investor dollars on structural enhancements, complicated docking maneuvers and station keeping as the technology matures in the safety of the space environment. Once the technology becomes routine and the commercial operators of the SolSats develop expertise and credibility they may well find profitable markets to sell the first beamed energy to Earth.

If the terrestrial energy market can then be pried open by competitive prices, we will have hit the jackpot. Obviously, planning must begin now to use Alpha as the test bed and proving ground for these technologies and foster the development of a diverse space energy industry.

Therefore: Alpha Principle Four. All additional energy requirements aboard Alpha after assembly is completed will be supplied by commercial vendors.

A Revolution in Thinking

The Alphatown concept is not about hardware. It is about a mind set. The details are irrelevant. The particular technologies do not matter. It is not a destination or facility, it is an intellectual framework around which we build the dream of human settlement on the frontier. As opposed to a boring Antarctic style facility on the edge of nowhere and going nowhere, it will be a symbol of hope, the seed corn of a new civilization.

The Foundation believes that it is imperative that this new common sense approach is adopted. Using the town model so familiar to legislators and business people, the institutional, regulatory and financial tools and incentives one might apply to encourage economic growth here on Earth immediately suggest themselves, and can be applied to this new domain.

Once planners and future residents of our new town agree on this concept we can then sell it to the world, for it is a very powerful idea. People come from towns, they live in them, they raise their families in them, they know without thinking how they operate, the social contracts that make them work and they know their potential. But the powers that be cannot pick and choose from it. It is all or nothing, just as a town with no roads or no energy or no buildings is not a town. It is the sum of the parts we must be focused upon. If the rhetoric and not the reality is all that is adopted and the government continues either controlling or killing all human space activities not their own – we can kiss the frontier good bye for another 30 years.

The Space Frontier Foundation believes that this is the only justification for the International Space Station that is supportable in the long term by the American people. If Alphatown is adopted as our model, the federal space station in the year 2010 will not be teetering yet again on the edge of the budget knife, but will be the heart of our first new town in space. To Americans, Alpha's role will be obvious. To the world, Alpha Town will be seen as a symbol of America's commitment to lead them into the future.

It is time to understand the simple truth about space, that it is not a program, but a place. In fact, it is the next place for human beings to go to, and we must get on with the job, celebrate the dream, and rebuild our federal program to support that goal while doing all we can to aid those who would build the first space-based Fortune 500 companies of the next century. As the shopkeepers and settlers and entrepreneurs and industrialists build this new extension of our domain just a few hundred miles overhead, NASA and the other space agencies of the world will be able to use the funds they save from getting out of operating the buildings and trucks of the town to go to the far frontier and push outward, to Mars, Europa and beyond.

Within a few years after the town begins to grow, it will not matter whether the government station even exists as a taxpayer-funded entity, its job will be done. Alpha Town – "First Town," will be a growing and vibrant community, holding out the promise to a child on Earth that with hard work and perseverance she might be able to go there or to the worlds opening beyond and carve out a new life on the frontier. It will be a gleaming star of hope for Americans and all the people of the world, twinkling overhead in the night. And anyone asking where this nation is going will simply have to look up to find the answer...

Rick N. Tumlinson
Rick N. Tumlinson speaks at Space Frontier Conference 7.
Biographical Information

Rick N. Tumlinson
President, Space Frontier Foundation

Rick Tumlinson is the President and Founder of the Space Frontier Foundation, a national organization that is leading the drive for a free enterprise based pro-human settlement space policy. The Foundation has led a revolution in American space policy circles, and has been called "pound for pound the most effective space organization in the country." Using the internet, television radio and print media, Tumlinson's fiery speeches and writings have ignited a growing national debate on the structure and future of our space program. The organization, which coined the term Cheap Access to Space, lead the fight to privatize the space shuttle, and was a key player behind the creation of NASA's new X-33 single stage rocket program. Recently, their Alpha Town proposal (turning the space station into a commercially run nexus around which the first human town in space can be born) has caught the imaginations of policy makers. The Foundation's conferences attract leaders and business people from around the nation to share ideas and discuss new policy initiatives, and have become a gathering place for a new generation of space entrepreneurs and Hollywood producers and writers of space fiction. Recently, Tumlinson and other Foundationers created Pro-Space, a grass roots space lobby that has already conducted hundreds of in office briefings of politicians in support of the new pro frontier agenda for space.

Tumlinson has a keen sense of history and the frontier spirit. A direct descendant of the Founding families of Texas, who's forefather died in the Alamo, his family tree includes some 38 Texas Rangers. Son of a 22 year Air Force veteran and an English mother, he traveled widely as an Air Force "brat," spending eight years growing up in England and the rest of the time largely in Texas. He attended Trinity Valley College in Athens, Texas and Stephen F. Austin University, in Nacogdoches, Texas. Currently married and living in Manhattan and Los Angeles, he founded the New York Space Frontier Society and for 3 years worked for noted scientist and visionary Gerard K. O'Neill as Communications Director for the Space Studies Institute in Princeton. He helped pass the Space Settlement Act of 1988, he testified before the National Commission on Space and was a lead witness during 1995 NASA Restructuring hearings in the House of Representatives.

Tumlinson's time is split between the "inside game" of Washington policy and the "outside game" of changing Americans’ relationship to the opening of space. From the first ever paid political ads for space, to being the first space consultant for the Sci-Fi channel, his work in media has begun to change the perception of space in the public mind. He created the Foundation's prestigious annual award for "Best Vision of the Future" to push television and film studios towards inspiring and scientifically correct presentations of humanities future in space. He has co-authored a – CD ROM on space and his writings and quotes appear in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, Miami Herald, Reader's Digest, Space News and dozens of other publications. A well known evangelist for the space frontier, he has also appeared on such national television programs as ABC's World News Tonight, the CBS Morning Show, and Politically Incorrect. His hard hitting video on the DC-X helped the program survive in its early years and he was a key member of the teams that created the Lunar Prospector, now slated for launch by NASA, and the multi-million dollar International Space University. He is a founder and active member of LunaCorp, a firm planning a commercial return to the Moon.

The Space Frontier Foundation is an organization of people dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere and creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System.

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Our definition of a "frontier enabling" technology or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the space frontier for private citizens and companies, enables or accelerates our use of space resources, and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated in space. In other words, is the project or policy going to provide a return on the national investment, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainable human habitation of space?

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