Yesterday, NASA unveiled efforts to open up the International Space Station (ISS) to the public, giving private tourists, scientists, and other entities the opportunity to work and live on the station as soon as next year. There are two catches: you must be American and you must have a lot of cash. This move comes as NASA focuses full speed ahead on its goal of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, where American companies also will play an essential role in establishing a sustainable presence. Ultimately, NASA says their goal is to partner with industry to “achieve a strong ecosystem in which NASA is one of many customers purchasing services and capabilities at lower cost.”
While NASA will continue research and testing in low-Earth orbit to inform its lunar exploration plans, while also working with the private sector to test technologies, train astronauts and strengthen the burgeoning space economy, guests will be able to take commercial launch providers, SpaceX and Boeing, for extended stays on the space station during certain windows of the year. NASA hopes that by providing expanded opportunities at the International Space Station to manufacture, market and promote commercial products and services will help catalyze and expand space exploration markets for many businesses on Earth.
“NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we’ve never done before,” said chief financial officer Jeff DeWit.
Don’t expect airport hotel prices for this out-of-this-world getaway though. According to NASA, it’ll cost $22,500 a day for crews to use supplies like food and air while daily use of the station’s toilet and life support systems runs for $11,250. And there’s no free WiFi to send selfies home; instead, NASA will charge guests $50/GB for a data downlink and $42/kWh for electricity. With a stay expected to be around a month, the typical stay will be around $1million. Beyond the cost of staying there is the price of getting there. Visitors will have to pay for an expensive flight there that makes the world’s most expensive first class airline ticket seem like a drop in the bucket in comparison: around $60million.
The U.S. isn’t be the first country to bring tourists to the station. Between 2001 and 2009, private Russian company Space Adventures facilitated seven space tourists’ trips to the ISS. Through the Russian company Space Adventures, in partnership with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation and Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, participants could pay amounts in excess of $20 million for a 10-day visit to the ISS. However, Russia halted orbital space tourism in 2010 due to the increase in the International Space Station crew size, using the seats for expedition crews that would previously have been sold to paying spaceflight participants. Until SpaceX and Boeing launch their crewed capsules to the station, NASA must hire the Russians to bring them to space. When the Space Shuttle was still flying, Russia charged Americans roughly $22million to get astronauts into space. Today, that number is over $80million now that Russia has a monopoly of human space flight.