The future the Jetsons promised us is on its way – today, NASA announced that they are ready to invite tourists to the International Space Station, with trips ready to start in 2020. The US-based space station company say they plan to do at least two private astronaut missions, allowing tourists to travel up to the ISS for 30 days. So far, the price stands at $35,000 per night.
Prior to this, any commercial use of the International Space Station was banned by NASA, along with any astronauts performing for-profit research. Although, NASA doesn’t own the ISS. It was built in 1988 along with Russia, which has a more relaxed view of private space exploration.
The first tourist to ever visit was a US businessman – Dennis Tito, in 2001. He paid Russia $20 million for that round trip.
“Nasa is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we’ve never done before,” chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in New York.
Private commercial entities will be the ones responsible for deciding on crew composition, as well as making sure that all astronauts are physically prepared for the flight. Mental and physical health will determine who is allowed on board for these trips.
NASA plans to use Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, which will use their Dragon Capsule craft to charter tourists to the ISS. Boeing is the other company that will participate that was hired by NASA with plans to build a spacecraft called the Starliner.
The Dragon Spacecraft can hold seven people, according to SpaceX. It’s designed to comfortably transport both people and cargo beyond Earth’s atmosphere. The website brags that this ship is the only one of its kind that is “capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth.”
Despite Boeing’s recent struggles with some of their airplanes, the company is getting ready to launch the Starliner. While tests of this craft have been pushed back, Boeing plans to test the Starliner-100 later this summer. This craft is similar to SpaceX’s, holding seven crew members and various types of cargo.
Both companies also boast updated spacesuits which will be used with these crafts. New lightweight materials and customization will be available for astronauts traveling on these flights.
This move by NASA is part of a larger plan to make the International Space Station available for all types of commercial uses, heading towards full privatization. Last year, Trump’s budget called for the station to be entirely defunded by 2025. This has pushed NASA towards finding alternate funding for space exploration.
NASA also plans to start sending astronauts to the moon again by 2024. So far, they’ve announced that they plan to start by sending the first woman astronaut to the moon. She will also be the first person to land on the moon in decades.
— NASA (@NASA) June 7, 2019