WASHINGTON (AP) Thrill-seekers looking to blast into space from the U.S. would need to be informed in writing of serious risks, including death, and promise not to sue the government under the first-ever rules for commercial space travel by American companies.
The rules issued Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration mandate training and medical fitness evaluations for crew members, preflight testing and other steps U.S. companies must take before getting licenses to carry paying passengers on suborbital flights.
Virgin Galactic, run by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, is aiming to offer out of this world vacations in 2008 for travelers willing to pay $200,000. Other companies are making similar plans.
The FAA regulations were required under legislation Congress passed two years ago, in the wake of the successful 2004 flights of a privately financed manned rocket over California's Mojave Desert.
For now, the flights aren't required to be safe for passengers. Lawmakers were concerned that safety requirements would hamper innovation in the infant industry, and settled on informed consent for the early years of paid space travel. The FAA was given the authority to begin regulating for passenger safety in eight years, or if an accident causing serious injury or death happened before then.
"Private human space flight will be an unparalleled adventure," said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. "In an environment where some level of risk will always be present, this action underscores the FAA's firm commitment to public safety."