"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recognizes the advancement of the commercial suborbital spaceflight industry and requests information on potential human-tended flight experiments enabled by this capability. NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is in the formulation phase of a possible new program to fly government-sponsored payloads and researchers on commercial suborbital systems with the intent of advancing SMD's goals and objectives. Responses to this RFI will be used to inform NASA's program planning."
Editor's note: These twin RFIs were initially issued on 28 Feb 2008 with responses due on 28 March 2008. Some time after Alan Stern quit his job at NASA as SMD AA, his replacement, Ed Weiler, decided that he was uninterested in this program and pulled back from it. Weiler rewrote the RFI such that it was now just a study and extended the due date to 5 December 2008. Weiler then took the money that had been set aside for it and moved it elsewhere. When asked, SMD told the Administrator's office that this funding was still there when in fact it was not. When eventually caught in this contradiction, Weiler said that he'd put the money back - but he then dragged his feet and was caught a second time without having restored the funding.
The original intent of this program was to utilize the growing potential of the emerging U.S. suborbital space access industry. Not only would NASA get access to frequent, meaningful, and cheap microgravity, it would also help to support this growing market sector. Alas, it would seem that Ed Weiler's interests are elsewhere - on non-human spaceflight. Backward thinking at a time when NASA should be looking forward.