NASA announced on Friday that it would allow space tourists and businesses to use the International Space Station (ISS), from which the US space agency is seeking to withdraw financially, as soon as next year.
“NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities,” said Jeff DeWit, chief financial officer of the US Space Agency in New York. “NASA will allow up to two short private astronaut missions a year,” added Robyn Gatens, a NASA manager at the ISS.
The stays could last up to 30 days, NASA said. Potentially, up to a dozen private astronauts could stay onboard the ISS each year. These “private astronauts” will be transported exclusively by the two companies currently developing vehicles for NASA: SpaceX, with the Crew Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which builds the Starliner capsule.
These companies will choose the customers and charge them the trip, which will be the most expensive part of the adventure: about $58 million per round trip, which is the average fare that will be charged to NASA to transport its astronauts.
But tourists will pay NASA for the stay in orbit, for food, water and the entire life support system on board. “It will cost about $ 35,000 per night per astronaut,” said DeWit.
The ISS does not belong to NASA: the station was built by a consortium of countries including Russia since 1998. Other nations participate and send astronauts to the ISS as well. But the United States owns and controls most of the modules.
These space tourists will not be the first: the American businessman Dennis Tito was the first, in 2001. He had paid Russia about 20 million dollars at the time.