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NASA to open International Space Station to tourists from 2020

Private astronauts may soon be able to visit the ISS for $35,000 a night.

The International Space Station
The International Space Station
Image: DPA/PA Images

NASA HAS ANNOUNCED it could open up the International Space Station (ISS) to tourist ventures as it seeks to financially disengage from the research lab.

Deputy director of the ISS Robyn Gatens suggested that the station could host up to two short private astronaut missions every year.

It is proposed that the missions would be for stays of up to 30 days, and that as many as a dozen private astronauts could visit the ISS per year for $35,000 (€30,869) a night.

Tourists would be ferried to the orbiter exclusively by the two companies currently developing transport vehicles for NASA: the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX, with its Crew Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which is building one called Starliner.

The companies would choose the clients and bill for the trip to the ISS, which will be the most expensive part of the adventure: around $58 million (€51 million) for a round trip.

But tourists will also pay NASA for their stay in space, for food, water and use of the life support system on the orbiter.

That will run about $35,000 per night per astronaut, NASA chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said.

“NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we’ve never done before,” he told reporters in New York.

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The space station does not belong to NASA. It was built along with Russia starting in 1998, and other countries participate in the mission and send up astronauts.

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

The new space tourists to the ISS will not be the first: US businessman Dennis Tito had that honor in 2001. when he paid Russia around $20 million (€17 million) for the trip.

With reporting from  - © AFP 2019

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