Keith's note: I finally had a chance to talk with Kevin Heath from Waypoint2space about their astronaut training services in response to earlier postings on NASAWatch. Heath confirmed that they do not have a signed Space Act Agreement with NASA in place and that it is currently stuck in NASA Legal limbo (that certainly can happen). Waypoint2space says that they do have a signed agreement with Jacobs Engineering but that only deals with their interactions with Jacobs - not NASA. Heath also confirmed that NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) has declined to work with them but that the JSC Engineering Directorate was interested. As stated earlier, I find it somewhat perplexing to see how NASA can support a cmpany offering astronaut training when the very part of NASA (MOD) that does such things declines to participate.
With regard to statements on his website that describe current/existing cooperation with NASA and use of NASA facilities Heath said it was OK to say that they are working with JSC and already offer services because no one at JSC has told him not to - yet he has no agreement in place saying that they have NASA's agreement with regard to their participation/support. I suggested that not saying 'no' does not equal yes when it comes to NASA legal but Heath stuck to his point that an absence of no = yes.
As to statements on the Waypoint2space website such as "Operating from NASA's Johnson Space Center, we offer the definitive training experience with our fully comprehensive and immersive space training programs" Heath said that they had rented a warehouse offsite for classes but that their offices were in the Houston Technology Center (HTC) building (35) at NASA JSC hence the "operating from" language. I suggested that the wording and photographs on their website gave the clear implication that his company is providing these training services at JSC. But Heath preferred the split-hair distinction that "operating from" JSC had nothing to do with the classes that they are selling offsite. The way that their website is currently written it clearly invokes and implies the use of NASA facilities (which are onsite by definition).
Heath said that they will not be using centrifuges for high-G training but will use high performance aircraft instead. He did not specify where EVA or high altitude training would be offered. When asked how weightless parabolas would be provided - and if JSC and/or ZeroG would be providing these services - Heath declined to respond for proprietary purposes. The building that they claim (on their website) to be building would be built offsite from JSC at Ellington Field - not onsite at JSC.
As I have stated many times before with regard to this specific business and others, I think that selling astronaut/spaceflight participant/space tourist training services for people who will ride into or work in space is a great idea - even if they cannot afford to go there. If for no other reason, this serves to spread an awareness of what it is like to live and work in space and that the future holds promise for real careers in this field. Indeed, I have completed suborbital scientist training at NASTAR. The issue I do have - and continue to have - with Waypoint2space (and some other startup companies) is lack of total transparency and total accuracy about what is and is not being offered - by whom and where it is being offered. In this case, some simple editorial fixes to their website, a few discussions with NASA, and more interaction with the news media should clear that up.
Keith's update: Subsequent to our interaction (below) I got additional comments from Kevin Heath including:
"In working with NASA we have to be careful what we say and how we say it so we have been careful to say that we train people like how NASA Astronauts train but you do not become an Astronaut by going through our programs. The only way you become an Astronaut is by going above 62 miles into space and the only way you become a NASA Astronaut is by going through their Astronaut Candidate Training program. So what we say is we train you "like" an Astronaut."
This caveat or explanation does not appear anywhere on their website. All you see are pictures of someone in a NASA EVA trainign suit with phrases such as "This could be you!" and "Have you ever wanted to be an astronaut?" with accompanying text:
"To go into space, step out of the vehicle, and float above the earth while reaching for the stars - but wondered if you have what it takes? For the first time in history, you can train like an astronaut using the most advanced facilities and equipment in the world. Operating from NASA's Johnson Space Center, we offer the definitive training experience with our fully comprehensive and immersive space training programs. These one-of-a-kind programs prepare you for spaceflight while you experience first hand what every astronaut has during their preparation for space. Additionally, SFP's are trained in accordance to our FAA Safety Approval ensuring a consistent level of spaceflight competency."
CLEARLY Waypoint2Space wants you to be thinking about astronaut training - at "NASA Johnson Space Center". Otherwise they'd explicitly say "we are not training astronauts at NASA Johnson Space Center" - and avoid showing pictures of people dressed up like real astronauts undergoing training - right? This website is deceptive in the extreme.