National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) declared on Friday that the orbiting outpost is currently open for business to private citizens, with the very first visit anticipated to be as early as upcoming year.
There is certainly a catch, however: You’ll have to raise your own personal cash, but it won’t be low-cost.
A round-trip ticket will almost certainly cost an estimated $58 million. And accommodations would certainly run about $35,000 per night, for trips of up to 30 days long, claimed NASA’s chief financial officer Jeff DeWit. “But it won’t come with any Hilton or Marriott points,” DeWit said during a news conference at Nasdaq in New York City.
Travelers don’t have to be US citizens. People from other nations can also be accepted, so long as they fly on a US-operated rocket.
Since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has flown astronauts to the space station aboard Russian rockets. The agency has contracted with SpaceX and Boeing to fly future crewed missions to the space station. Private citizens would need to make travel arrangements with those private companies to reach orbit.
“If a private astronaut is on station , they will have to pay us while they’re there for the life support, the food , the water, things of that nature,” DeWit added.
Based on the market, the agency will permit up to two visitors per year, for now. And the private astronauts will need to meet the same medical standards, training and certification procedures as regular crew members.
The space station has welcomed tourists before by way of Russian rockets . In 2001 , California businessman Dennis Tito became the first visitor by paying for a journey and several others have followed .
Friday’s announcement marks the first time NASA is allowing private astronauts on board. The space agency will never be selling directly to customers. Instead it will charge private companies that ferry passengers, that can pass on the costs to visitors, NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said in an email.
The program is part of NASA’s efforts to open the station to private industries, which the agency hopes will inherit the orbiting platform someday.
Finally, the space station will become very expensive for the government to maintain, said Bill Gerstenmaier, a NASA associate administrator. So the idea is to let the private sector start using the station now and perhaps eventually take it over, he said.
The NASA officials said some revenue from commercial activities can help the agency focus its resources on returning to the moon in 2024, a major goal of the Trump administration. The agency said it could possibly reduce the cost to US taxpayers for this next lunar mission.