NASA opens International Space Station to tourists

Muriel Hammond
June 10, 2019

Astronauts have lived aboard the space station for more than 18 years conducting thousands of experiments.

Tourism and other ISS commercial endeavors are collectively just a piece of a 30-page policy entitled NASA's Plan for Commercial LEO Development that was released on Friday.

There's likely to be a hefty waiting list too (if you can afford it), as Nasa said in a statement that they can accommodate "up to two short-duration private astronaut missions" each year.

"These missions will be privately funded, dedicated commercial spaceflights". Transportation is also a part of the cost, and BBC estimates that it will cost around $60 million per flight.

Richard Garriott, an English-American entrepreneur who paid $30 million to Russian Federation for a two-week stay on the ISS in 2008, called the move a "seismic shift" in United States space policy.

However, NASA says seats aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon and/or Boeing CST-100 capsules will cost roughly $58 million per seat.

Keeping astronauts on board the ISS is a pricey business. Tack on an additional $22,500 a day for food and air. Instead it will charge private companies that ferry passengers, which can pass on the costs to visitors, NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said in an email.

A large bank balance won't be enough either: you'll have to pass Nasa's rigorous health checks and training procedures. Fingers crossed, a ticket will get cheaper. Such missions will use a US-based spacecraft developed under NASA's Commercial Crew Program. That will be very expensive. This group brainstormed ways companies may be able to turn profits at the ISS, and they decided that allowing corporations to build and market their products by using ISS resources would help to ignite the economy NASA is seeking to build. It's even looking at this new push as a way to fully commercialize and even replace the space station, making budgetary room for renewed lunar exploration with people. "Transitioning toward this new model of business is an important step to allow Nasa to move full speed ahead in landing the first woman and the next man on the moon".

The program is part of NASA's efforts to open the station to private industries, which the agency hopes will inherit the orbiting platform someday. We want to go to stay.

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