The International Space Station is going commercial.
NASA is opening up its portion of the International Space Station (ISS) to commercial activity including tourism, NASA leaders Jeff DeWitt, Bill Gerstenmaier, and Robyn Gatens announced on Friday at the opening of the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York City.
NASA will charge $35,000 a night for access to the ISS’ facilities, but the agency won’t be rocketing tourists into space itself. Instead, it’s simply leasing portions of the ISS to private companies who will be responsible for getting tourists to the space station.
Seats on flights to the ISS will likely be incredibly expensive, available mostly to the super-rich. Virgin Galactic started selling tickets to space for $250,000 in 2013. And in 2009, Canadian businessman Guy Laliberté reportedly spent $35 million to fly to the ISS. Private space flight companies such as Axiom Space in Houston and Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace are already planning trips to the ISS, powered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets.
According to Wired, the commercialization of the ISS is about more than just sending tourists to space, but the the US privatizing its portion of the space station, with activities including "commercial manufacturing" to help fund future projects and encourage innovation from the private sector.
“This effort is intended to broaden the scope of commercial activity on the space station beyond the ISS National Lab mandate, which is limited to research and development,” NASA said in a press release. “A new NASA directive will enable commercial manufacturing and production and allow both NASA and private astronauts to conduct new commercial activities aboard the orbiting laboratory.”
According to Wired, private companies will be able to pay astronauts to help advertise their products, and NASA is even set to lease the ISS’ last open space port, used to attach a new module to the station, to a private company.
“We’re trying to knock down all the barriers that have been around for awhile and see what the private sector can do to construct a business plan,” NASA’s chief financial officer Jeff DeWitt said at a press conference.
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