Nasa to allow commercial access to the International Space Station

Got $50 million for a vacation? NASA to open space station to private citizens

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Visitors would be able to stay up to 30 days to "perform duties that fall into the approved commercial and marketing activities outlined in the directive". With or without NASA, the 20-year-old station is approaching the end of its lifetime.

"We're reaching out to the private sector to see if you can push the economic frontier into space", said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

"Nasa is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we've never done before", the chief financial officer, Jeff DeWit, said in NY, according to the BBC.

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

"We are announcing the availability for private astronauts to visit the space station on U.S. vehicles, and for companies to engage in profit-making activities on the station", said NASA CFO Jeff DeWit in a press briefing.

NASA's announcement follows a NASA study of the commercialization of low-earth orbit involving twelve companies that aimed to enumerate possible business opportunities in space.

According to NASA, the first private astronaut missions could blast-off as early as 2020.

"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.

There's likely to be a hefty waiting list too (if you can afford it), as Nasa said in a statement that they can accommodate "up to two short-duration private astronaut missions" each year.

Unfortunately, the stay won't come with any Hilton or Marriott points, DeWit joked.

But the USA has paid for and controls most of the modules that make up the orbiter.

The Nasa officials said some revenue from commercial activities will help the agency focus its resources on returning to the moon in 2024, a major goal of the Trump administration.

The ISS already hosts some commercial research and development activities, but NASA intends to broaden that scope. Bigelow Aerospace plans to use SpaceX, a rocket company run by CEO Elon Musk, and each flight to space would have four seats for the group of private astronauts. In other words, in the future, NASA wants to be the buyer of low-Earth orbit services, not the seller.

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