Named one of the world’s top “Space Visionaries” and one the top one hundred most influential people in the space field by Space News, Rick N. Tumlinson Co-Founded the Space Frontier Foundation, called “pound for pound the most effective space organization on Earth.”
Among his other accomplishments, Mr. Tumlinson signed up Dennis Tito – the world’s first space “tourist” (citizen space explorer) to fly to the International Space Station, and led the team which took over the Russian Mir Space Station as the world’s first commercial space facility (as featured in the film “Orphans of Apollo”). He was a founding trustee of the XPrize and is credited with helping start what is called the “NewSpace” revolution – which has led to commercial space projects such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origins rocket firms.
Over the years Rick has been a lead witness in six congressional hearings on the future of NASA, the U.S. space program and space tourism, including testifying before Senator John McCain and the Senate Space and Technology Committee on the Moon, Mars and Beyond program.
From an old yet middle class Texas family whose pioneering credits include helping start the Texas Rangers and fighting in the Alamo, Rick has spent his life fighting to open the space frontier. He was born in San Angelo, in west Texas, the son of an Air Force Sergeant and his English wife. He was educated primarily in England and Texas, attending boarding school at Lakenheath, England and graduating from Athens High School in Athens, Texas. After attending college at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, he lived in Dallas before moving to New York City. There he worked for noted scientist Gerard K. O’Neill at the Space Studies Institute in Princeton New Jersey, founded the New York City L-5 Society, and was a key player in starting the Lunar Prospector project which discovered hints of water on the Moon. He also helped pass the Space Settlement Act of 1988 and testified before President Reagan’s National Commission on Space.
To support his activism in his early years, Tumlinson produced the animated videos used to gain funding for the Air Force’s DC-X rocket project, the International Space University, the X-33 rocket program and the Air Force’s Space Command. He also created the first ever paid political announcement for space, which was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.
Not satisfied to just talk, write about and help get funding for projects, Mr. Tumlinson has put his time and money where his mouth is. He co-founded the firm LunaCorp which produced the first ever TV commercial shot on the International Space Station for Radio Shack.
Rick was also Executive Director and co-Founder of the Foundation for the International Non-Governmental Development of Space (FINDS), a $25 million foundation which funded breakthrough projects and activities such as Helium 3 research, laser launch studies, and asteroid processing projects. The organization provided the first $100k in seed money for the founding of the Mars Society, operated the Cheap Access to Space Prize and supported such projects as The Watch asteroid search program. FINDS also underwrote and co-sponsored a very successful series of Senate Roundtables on space issues. Rick founded the Permission to Dream project, which has over the years placed dozens of telescopes in the hands of schools and educational groups around the world, from Sri Lanka to Iran and Russia.
A regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the space industry paper Space News, Tumlinson’s writings and quotes have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Washington Post, Reader’s Digest and dozens of other publications. He has appeared on the front page of the New York Times, has been featured in two issues of Popular Science and around the world from Britain’s conservative Economist to the People’s Daily in China. He has appeared on such television programs as ABC’s World News Tonight, and Politically Incorrect and appeared as an expert guest on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, CNBC’s Open Exchange and is a frequent commentator on CNN. Internationally he has appeared on TV sets from Russia to China’s CCTV and the BBC.
In 2004 Rick was one of only 20 guests invited by the White House to hear President Bush announce his plans to return to the Moon and explore Mars. Often a public critic of the agency, last year he helped start NASA’s prestigious Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, helping behind the scenes to lay out the framework for the first human outpost on the Moon and steps towards putting humans on Mars. He has also been a consultant to the Heinlein Prize Organization, and his book, Return to the Moon is available at your local bookstore.
In 2005 Mr. Tumlinson founded Orbital Outfitters, which produced the world’s first commercial space suit in 2007 and is considered one of the early successes of the New Space movement. He is currently living back in Texas where he founded the Texas Space Alliance to transform the state into a driving force in the realm of commercial space and space exploration. He is also working on Project: Space Diver, whose goal is to return people from space without spacecraft for safety and to start the world’s most extreme sport, while working on his next book.
Mr. Tumlinson is known as one of the best speakers in the field of space. His stirring and freewheeling talks range from critiques and discussions of current national space policy, to the presentation of a “Frontier” ideology for opening space, to the how and why of returning to the Moon, to a deeply spiritual discussion of our place in the universe, the search for other life and the reasons we are reaching for the stars.