Deep-sea exploration, mountain climbing, space travel: Who pays when things go wrong?

Modern adventure tourism ventures into uncharted territory ethically as well as geographically. The tragedy that befell the journey by Everett-based OceanGate Expeditions, requiring an international rescue operation that may cost taxpayers millions of dollars, raises many questions. Should there be more regulation? If so, who should set and enforce the rules? Are rescue operations even possible in some places extreme tourists are going?

Take space, for example.

Josef Koller, co-founder of The Space Safety Institute, asked what would happen if an Apollo 13-like mishap happened to a commercial rocket — leaving tourists stuck in lunar orbit, unable to return to Earth.

“There’s no strategy in place,” said Koller, whose institute is operated by The Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit that advises government and commercial space programs. “There are no rules and responsibilities assigned. … There’s no Coast Guard that can go out with several ships and search for a submarine.”

Who would be responsible for rescuing space tourists: NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense? And who would pay for it?

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