The Heinlein Prize is in the process of choosing its first winner. (credit: Heinlein Prize)
Letters: Heinlein Prize candidates
Monday, February 13, 2006
To Whom It May Concern:
We are writing in support of Mr. James A. M. Muncy receiving the first Heinlein Prize for his efforts to promote commercial space. The enactment of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 was a significant milestone in the development of private commercial space. While Mr. Muncy is not alone in deserving recognition for this achievement, his work was essential to its success; the bill would have failed without his tireless efforts to keep it moving.
The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 created statutory authority for the federal government to license private companies to take people into space. Until the passage of the Act, the cognizant FAA office, the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST), had no statutory authority to license flights carrying space flight participants. AST had no authority to say no, but they also had no explicit authority to say yes, and asking a bureaucrat to put his or her career on the line by acting without clear statutory authority is simply more than most bureaucrats can deliver. The 2004 CSLAA provided AST with clear, unambiguous statutory mandate to license commercial space flights carrying space flight participants.
Without the Act, the commercial space industry would still be mired in regulatory uncertainty over which agency or office of the government has authority over regulating manned commercial spaceflight, and therefore how it would be regulated. Specifically, the Act provided a clear definition of a suborbital vehicle. The resolution of this uncertainty has raised investor confidence in private commercial spaceflight and moved the industry forward.
|While Mr. Muncy is not alone in deserving recognition for this achievement, his work was essential to its success; the bill would have failed without his tireless efforts to keep it moving.|
The Act also created a regime for experimental permits for flight testing. Before the Act, there were no provisions for experimental flight testing of reusable launch vehicles. Experimental flight testing works very well in aviation, and is at the core of commercial aviation’s incomparable safety record. The new experimental permit regime allows a commercial space company to get a permit for an unlimited number of test flights, in contrast to the current practice of launch licensing, in which each license only authorizes a few flights.
Many of us have worked with Jim since the early 1980s. While his previous accomplishments are numerous, the passage of the Act is to date the greatest achievement of a 25-year career. We know Jim will continue to work towards making America a spacefaring nation.
Jim has not sought, nor has he received, the recognition he deserves, for this legislative achievement on behalf of this new industry. For that reason also, he should be awarded the Heinlein Prize for his leadership in securing passing of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004.
Dr. Jerry Pournelle
Dr. Yoji Kondo
Dr. Freeman Dyson
Dr. John Lewis
Dr. Charles Lurio