Space tourism a new focus for Hawaii's visitor industry?

Jim Crisafulli
Jim Crisafulli
Joleen Iwaniec
Joleen Iwaniec
Rep. Glenn Wakai
Rep. Glenn Wakai

By Diane Ako - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii's unique landscape and weather attracts visitors from around the world. But what about out of this world? Some state lawmakers say space tourism is where Hawaii's future lies.

Space tourism is, potentially, a billion-dollar global industry. Could Hawaii become a major player in the quest to boldly go where only some have gone before? Jim Crisafulli is the director of the state's Office of Aerospace Development, run by the state's Department of Business, Economic Development, & Tourism. "Aerospace is one of the definitive growth industries for the state. It's one of these industries that once it matures it will not be exported. And the reason for that is what Hawaii has."

Crisafulli said Hawaii has an ideal location, space-like landscapes, and local experts already at Mauna Kea. "The moon/Mars-like terrain on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are ideal for testing and evaluating new technologies that will take us back to the moon."

Budding astronaut Joleen Iwaniec, an electrical engineering major at the University of Hawaii, agrees that Hawaii has much to offer. "Through what we have on the Big Island and Ellison Onizuka being from here, I think that Hawaii has a lot to offer space oriented programs."

That's why State Representative Glenn Wakai backs a bill that would help out Hawaii's fledgling aerospace industry. Wakai says most legislative approaches to balance the budget are to cut spending, but this would create new revenue. "Here is a unique opportunity for us generating something on the revenue side of the state budget."

House bill 994, and companion Senate bill 222, would set aside state money to apply for a $500,000 spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Advocates believe that would definitely help establish space tourism in Hawaii. "I think that would be fabulous to have one here." said Iwaniec.

Crisafulli projected, "Once the space planes start launching from Hawaii, the annual revenue from this one event alone is projected at $200 million per year. And that is flying one space plane in and out of Honolulu once per week."

Wakai said it's a smart investment that can't one day be exported. "You can't move a telescope from Mauna Kea. You can't replicate the Mars terrain on the Big Island anywhere else. You can't move a state as close to the equator as Hawaii is. When we look at economic development this is an untapped, really boom market for the state of Hawaii."

Iwaniec added, "It's not only about space shuttles, there's a lot of work involved in getting our men and women to space." Crisafulli agreed, "The idea is to train the next generation of astronauts that will lead us into space."

He's hoping that sending payloads into space one day, will pay off for the state's economy. The bill is scheduled to be heard by a legislative committee on February 17.

More information from the state's Office of Aerospace Development:

Innovative Aerospace Initiatives for the State of Hawaii

State Office of Aerospace Development. OAD serves as a focal point within State government to facilitate dialogue and coordination among Hawaii's government, private and academic sectors, and between State-based entities and overseas organizations, both public and private, to promote the growth and diversification of Hawaii's aerospace industry. See

Multinational Space Exploration. Hawaii's unique location, resident expertise, Moon-Mars like terrain, and long-standing ties with Asia-Pacific nations make it an ideal venue to facilitate international dialogue and exchange, leading toward opportunities for multinational space exploration - especially as a testbed for developing and validating innovative technologies to support future robotic and human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond!

Two major programs sponsored by our State include the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and the Japan-U.S. Science, Technology & Space Applications Program (JUSTSAP) and are focusing on the development, testing and deployment of innovative robotic technologies, advanced satellite communications systems, space-based power, and commercial utilization of the International Space Station. See and

NASA, JAXA (the Japan Space Exploration Agency), the Canadian Space Agency and DLR (the German space agency) worked with PISCES last November to test/demonstrate new robotic technologies on Mauna Kea, demonstrating the ability to extract water and oxygen from the lunar regolith (soil) that could sustain future human colonies on the Moon. See

Space-Based Solar Power. One of JUSTSAP's project teams is helping pioneer new technologies that can capture sunlight, convert this to microwaves, and beam to earth as a source of renewable energy. See

Commercial Space Launch. Hawaii's mid-Pacific, near equatorial location make it an ideal site for launching satellites, experimental payloads and tourists to space. See and

NEXT GEN aviation and pilot training. The FAA is establishing new technologies/protocols in conjunction with other federal agencies to enhance aviation efficiency and safety. Hawaii is an ideal testbed to validate these technologies, as well as to train pilots for airlines throughout the Asia-Pacific region. See

Aerospace Education/Training. PISCES, the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium, and other institutions in Hawaii are pioneering innovative programs that will train the next generation of space scientists, engineers and astronauts, including the PISCES national lunar habitat design competition, the LCROSS telemetry mission, and others. See;;;