NASA to open International Space Station to visitors


NASA will allow private citizens to stay at the International Space Station (ISS) for month-long getaways at a cost of about $35,000 per night, the USA space agency said on Friday. Two of these short-stay missions will be allowed every year, and the first tourist may go up as early as 2020 using a USA spacecraft by SpaceX or Boeing developed under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

"If you look at the pricing and you add it up, back of a napkin, it would be roughly $35,000 a night, per astronaut", NASA's Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit told a news conference in NY.

Commercializing the ISS "will enable NASA to focus resources to land the next man and the first woman on the moon by 2024", Jeff DeWit, NASA's chief financial officer, told reporters during the news conference.

Parts of the ISS will be opened for space tourism and commercial filming, according to The Washington Post. For now, Nasa is making one space station port available for commercial uses "for a finite period of time".

While private astronauts will now be allowed aboard the ISS (at an estimated $58 million a seat), DeWit envisions that within decades companies will be building small space stations for private use.

It paves the way for private citizens to travel to the ISS aboard rocket-and-capsule launch systems being developed by Boeing Co and Elon Musk's SpaceX.

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NASA works with over 50 companies right now that test or manufacture products in space.

It's been nearly a decade since the last tourist visited the International Space Station via a Russian spacecraft, but NASA could be opening the hatch to new private astronauts as soon as 2020. In other words, in the future, NASA wants to be the buyer of low-Earth orbit services, not the seller.

"Enabling a vibrant economy in low-Earth orbit has always been a driving element of the space station program, and will make space more accessible to all Americans", Koch said. And the private astronauts will have to meet the same medical standards, training and certification procedures as regular crew members. This could become the first major step in handing off human activities in low-Earth orbit to private industry.

Eventually, NASA wants to see ISS replaced by a privately run space station.

Up until now, NASA had not allowed ISS to be used for commercial purposes.