Texas to Millionauts: You’re On Your Own

A Titan rocket explodes just after liftoff. (Credit: USAF)
Spaceflight operators in Texas are all but exempt from being sued for injuries and deaths they cause to their passengers by placing the following 51-word warning in their flight agreements with clients.

I UNDERSTAND AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT A SPACE FLIGHT ENTITY IS NOT LIABLE FOR ANY INJURY TO OR DEATH OF A SPACE FLIGHT PARTICIPANT RESULTING FROM SPACE FLIGHT ACTIVITIES. I UNDERSTAND THAT I HAVE ACCEPTED ALL RISK OF INJURY, DEATH, PROPERTY DAMAGE, AND OTHER LOSS THAT MAY RESULT FROM SPACE FLIGHT ACTIVITIES.

The law, signed by Gov. Rick Perry this week, carves out two exceptions:

(1) proximately caused by the space flight entity’s gross negligence evidencing wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of the space flight participant; or

(2) intentionally caused by the space flight entity.
Clients will be required to agree to these terms or they won’t fly.
The Texas Space Alliance (TXA), a non-profit group promoting commercial space in the Lone Star State, hailed the measure in a press release.
“We at the Texas Space Alliance salute the government for taking this first small step towards making Texas a space state,” said Wayne Rast, Director-Governmental Affairs for TXA. “After having offered testimony in the Texas Senate on behalf of this legislation, we are thrilled to see it become the law in Texas.”
The TXA, which worked with other pro-commercial space supporters to help pass the legislation saluted State Senator Carlos Uresti (TX-19), and Texas Congressmen Pete Gallego (TX-74), for introducing and then championing passage of this important new law, which it believes will help usher in an age of commercial space travel in Texas, including so called space “tourism” flights to the edge of space. They also acknowledge the work of Keith Graff and others on the governor’s staff, and the governor himself, who they believe can help rally the state to this important cause.

“This is the beginning of a new effort on our part to “awaken the sleeping giant” of Texas when it comes to the emerging commercial space industry,” said TXA President Rick Tumlinson. But we have to move quickly. Other states such as Florida, Virginia and New Mexico are far ahead of us in courting and supporting this potentially multi-billion dollar industry, and if we want a part of it dramatic and determined action will be necessary – as the deals are being cut right now that will determine its future for decades.”

Other states have passed similar laws.