NASA is planning to allow private astronauts to fly to the International Space Station, the agency announced Friday, as well as open up the orbiting laboratory to more commercial interests.
The announcement is a significant change for the agency, which has had a long-standing prohibition against allowing tourists on the station. Russia, however, has allowed several private astronauts on the station.
The cost and arrangements would be left to SpaceX and Boeing, the two companies NASA has hired to fly crews to the station. But NASA would charge people for food, storage and communication while they are on the station, a cost that would come to about $35,000 a night.
Right now, commercial activity is limited to science experiments. But under the new policy, NASA would allow more commercial activity designed to allow companies make money. Officials said those activities could be far-ranging: “We have no idea what kinds of creativity and literally out of the world ideas come from private industry,” Bill Gersteinmaier, NASA’s head of human exploration, said during a news conference.
The goal is to help the agency generate additional revenue. But officials said it was unclear how much money the efforts would produce. The announcement comes as the agency is trying to return humans to the moon by 2024, a crash mission that officials said would require significant additional funding.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Christian Davenport