56th International Astronautical Congress
Fukuoka International Convention Centre
Plenary Event, Tuesday, October 18, 2005
"Birth of the Personal Spaceflight Revolution"
Introductory remarks by Patrick Collins
Professor, Azabu University
It is a great pleasure to participate in this IAC Plenary Event - the first ever on
Space Tourism - which is due very largely to the efforts of Peter Diamandis and the
The role of university researchers in society is quite clear - our job is to discover
the truth about things which we believe are important, and teach people about them.
Sometimes this requires us to criticise government policy. But this is not a bad
thing; government policy always needs improving. It is no justification to "shoot
In 1986 I presented a paper at the 37th IAC in Innsbruck in which my co-author David
Ashford and I explained how passenger space travel could become a major industry like
passenger air travel - and how this will have great economic and social value.
Thanks to "SpaceShipOne" this idea is starting to be more widely understood.
However, many people say: "Surely if Space Tourism was possible, Nasa would have
done it." But this is a serious mistake, because space agencies have no interest in
developing space tourism.
We can see this clearly from the following fact. Three people have now paid to fly
to orbit on the Soyuz rocket, which is the cheapest way to get to orbit. Soyuz is
the rocket that carried Yuri Gagarin on his historic flight. It was developed 50
years ago - and during this half-century space agencies in USA, Europe and Japan have
spent $1 TRILLION.
But they have not reduced the cost of getting to space by even 1 yen.
The truth is that space agencies have made no effort at all to open space to the
public - and they have no intention of doing so in the future. As everyone knows,
they are currently planning to repeat the Apollo project, 50 years on.
Last year SpaceShipOne showed how to reduce the cost of getting to space, in a short
sub-orbital flight, to about 1% of the cost using an expendable rocket like space
agencies use. As a result, several companies are now planning to supply sub-orbital
space flights to the general public. And several others, including Mr Horie, are
planning new orbital services. So it's becoming clearer and clearer that space
tourism is feasible - and will sharply reduce the cost of getting to space.
We have a project in Japan for a sub-orbital passenger vehicle called UCHUMARU .
For somewhat more than $100 million we can build a prototype UCHUMARU and test fly
it. Then for a few hundred million more dollars we can get certified and go into
production, when spacelines will be able to carry passengers on short sub-orbital
space flights for \1/2 million each.
But the Japanese government has quite different priorities. Last month its space
agency sent its Mr Noguchi to the ISS on Nasa's space shuttle. Everybody agrees he
did an excellent job.
But Mr Noguchi's flight cost Japanese taxpayers $1 billion.
And sad to say, despite all Mr Noguchi's effort, his work had almost no economic
value. That is, no new business will arise because of his flight.
Last month there was a general election in Japan, of which the central theme was how
to stop the Japanese government wasting taxpayers' money.
This example is sadly typical - government staff love spending taxpayers' money on
activities that do not create economic value. And what is even worse, at the same
time they refuse any budget at all for many activities that have great economic
For example, Nasa's own estimate of the sub-orbital passenger market - quoted in a
recent OECD report  - is $4 billion/year - that is 6 times the commercial
satellite launch business.
So instead of sending Mr Noguchi to the space station for a week, Japan could have a
whole fleet of UCHUMARU vehicles carrying 1,000 people/day to experience spaceflight
on a commercial basis.
This would be far better for taxpayers, far better for the struggling Japanese
economy, far better for young people, and could grow into a major new industry of the
21st century - leading on directly to orbital tourism, orbital hotels and lunar
So why do Japanese space policy makers not do something better for Japan? The
answer, in a word, is because space agencies are monopolies, and the first rule for
monopolists is: Preserve your monopoly. The last thing space agencies are
interested in is to develop services which the public wish to buy. This of course
means that their work can never have much economic value.
So space agencies refuse to even discuss Space Tourism. In a recent newspaper
interview , two senior Japanese policy makers stated that space commercialisation
is impossible for 10 years - and so taxpayers must keep paying them billions of
dollars/year. This is flatly untrue. They also stop conference sessions on Space
Tourism - like the 2004 ISTS conference in Japan.
They prefer the bureaucratic approach, spending money as they choose - until finally
some day they will not be able to continue. This is because Japanese taxpayers' debt
is already the highest in the world, and growing rapidly.
So Space Tourism is going to happen in Japan too - it's just a question of how long
reactionaries in the government can continue to prevent this very popular and
desirable new development. My guess is - not as long as they think. Thank you.
2] M Andrieu, "Space 2030, Exploring the Future of Space Applications", OECD, Paris,
3] "Japan's Space Development: the Path to Take", Nihon Keizai Shinbun, 2005,