Los Angeles, CA, February 17, 2000 The Space Frontier Foundation hailed today's announcement of the groundbreaking commercial takeover of the Russian space station, Mir, by MirCorp, as a turning point in the history of space commercialization.
"MirCorp's strikingly brave effort represents a major success, and not only for private enterprise for NASA and other space exploration agencies as well," remarked Foundation President Rick Tumlinson, one of the effort's early leaders. "As today's Lewis' and Clarks, these agencies should be proud that the place they have been exploring for so long, the Near Frontier, is now about to see its first civilian residents."
The Russian firm, Energia, currently operates the Station and will be the majority stockholder in MirCorp. The future of Mir was not always rosy, however. The Russians had planned to de-orbit the Station and send it plunging into the ocean, due to lack of funding. But after a year of exhaustive efforts by Foundation members and others, Mir received funding from a private venture company, and MirCorp sprung to the rescue.
The Foundation, based in Los Angeles, has a decade-long history of interest in Mir. It started in 1991 as an article suggesting re-use of the spacecraft. Tumlinson testified about Mir before Congress in 1995, and in 1997, the Foundation called for the commercialization of the Station as part of its "Keep Mir Alive" campaign.
"The settlers and shopkeepers are finally moving out into the frontier of space," stated Foundation President Rick Tumlinson, who along with several others initiated the effort. "We are moving from the era of exploration, to the era of utilization; from a time when space was considered a 'program,' to a time when space is considered a 'place'."
The Foundation believes that MirCorp fulfills all the goals of both the U.S. government when it comes to the Russian space program. Stated Foundation Chairman Michael Heney, "It keeps Russian engineers in Russia, and it keeps them employed. It keeps production lines open, which benefits the International Space Station, and it provides a new and peaceful symbol of Russian society moving into the world of free enterprise."
Mir is unique because it will be the first space venture that is planned for use by civilian individuals not associated with NASA or other space agencies. "New markets and activities mean lower costs, and the free market cycle will bring access to space prices down over time," said Heney.
Tumlinson and the Foundation members wish the project well. He continued, "We hope others will join them and turn this into a revolution in the way humans see and participate in the opening of space."