NASA has said it’s opening up the International Space Station to commercial space travel. But you’ll need deep pockets to venture into deep space.
Starting in 2020, private astronaut trips will be available for a stay of up to 30 days, with the possibility of a 60 day duration. According to what NASA revealed, the plans are in part to offset the costs of keeping the station running.
Price tag? Each trip will likely cost over $50 million, with NASA getting $35,000 for each night a private astronaut spends on the International Space Station.
“NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we’ve never done before,” NASA chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in an announcement made at the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York.
The private astronauts will have to undergo rigorous astronaut training and meet NASA’s medical requirements be allowed to visit the space station for missions lasting up to 30 days, with trips up to twice a year, Gatens said. They won’t be on the ISS alone, NASA astronauts will still be there doing science and all the external repairs of the ISS – private astronauts will not do spacewalks.
These private astronauts would be ferried to the orbiter exclusively by the two US companies currently developing transport vehicles for NASA: SpaceX, with its Crew Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which is building one called Starliner.
These companies would choose the clients – who will not have to be US citizens – and bill for the trip to the ISS, which will be the most expensive part of the adventure: around $58 million for a round trip ticket.
At the presentation in June, NASA said it wasn’t looking to make a profit from the trips, but the money raised would help towards achieving long-term goals. These include returning humans to the moon by 2024 and even sending them to Mars after that.
NASA says the main goal of this change is to stimulate a space-based economy in low Earth orbit.
In the long term, NASA hopes that the spacecraft in low Earth orbit, including the ISS, will be primarily operated by private companies, with NASA buying services where necessary. This may be the start of a new space economy.