The US space agency NASA wants to open the International Space Station (ISS) for tourists and thus expand the business with the universe in the field of tourism. From 2020, there should be a „commercial“ use of the ISS for space tourists, announced NASA CFO Jeff DeWitt on Friday in New York. The prices are heavy – and internet costs extra.
NASA wants to authorize up to „two short missions a year for private astronauts,“ NASA representative Robyn Gatens, responsible for ISS said. Personal travel to space can take up to 30 days, according to NASA. Up to a dozen space tourists could come aboard the ISS every year.
There they are to be brought by two providers who are currently developing space capsules for NASA: the US private space company SpaceX by Elon Musk and the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing. Their space capsules „Crew Dragon“ and „Starliner“ are scheduled to be operational by the end of 2019. However, important tests are still pending. 2020 is the earliest possible start date for private astronauts.
Not for normal mortals
The two companies select the space tourists. Return flights are expected to cost around 58 million dollars (51 million euros). According to DeWitt, holidaymakers have to pay around $ 35,000 (€ 31,000) for life on board the space station.
The price includes food, water and life support systems. Internet costs extra: Per gigabyte is $ 50 due. The tourists also have to stay on board all the time. A spacewalk is not planned.
The universe as a commodity
NASA will continue its research in near-Earth space, but at the same time cooperate with private companies to test new technologies, train astronauts and expand the business with space, it said in a release. Expanding opportunities to produce and market services at ISS will help „many companies expand the space market“. In the commercialization of space NASA apparently wants to earn a lot.
However, the US wants private individuals to take over ISS altogether. The US wants to finance the space station only until the end of the next decade. NASA wants to rent the ISS then only. The released funds should instead be put into the lunar and Mars missions.
Trump is causing confusion with criticism
US President Donald Trump criticized NASA’s announcement – causing confusion: Trump seemed to find that NASA named the reason for their tourism program the funding of a manned lunar mission. „For all the money we spend, NASA should NOT talk about flying to the moon – we did that 50 years ago,“ Trump wrote on Friday (local time) on Twitter. Instead, the agency should focus on „bigger things“ like Mars, defense or science.
Trump seemed to contradict the plan supported by his own administration. This plans to build an outpost on the moon for a planned mission to Mars. Trump himself had signed the „Space Policy Directive 1“ in December 2017 and described it as „the foundation for a Mars mission“.
NASA head Jim Bridenstine also responded to Trump’s tweet on Twitter: „As the President of the United States says, NASA uses the moon to send people to Mars!“ He also referred to unmanned missions currently on the Red Planet are or are on the way there.
Cooperation with Russia
The ISS is not owned by NASA, but was built in cooperation with Russia from 1998. Other countries participate in the missions and sent astronauts to the ISS. The US, however, had paid a large part of the construction costs and is essentially responsible for the upkeep.
However, future NASA tourists will not be the first private vacationers on the ISS. You already came in 2001 before the US entrepreneur Dennis Tito. He then paid $ 20 million for the trip to Russia. He was followed by other tourists.
Since 2011, astronauts were only able to fly with Russian Soyuz rockets to the ISS – tourists have not taken them since. However, Russia has already announced that from 2021 onwards, it will again transport space tourists with Soyuz rockets.