NATIONAL NEWS

Long-Distance Trip: NASA Opening Space Station to Visitors

Jun 7, 2019, 3:19 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:06 pm
IN SPACE - MAY 29: In this handout provided by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)...
IN SPACE - MAY 29: In this handout provided by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), back dropped by planet Earth the International Space Station (ISS) is seen from NASA space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation May 29, 2011 in space. After 20 years, 25 missions and more than 115 million miles in space, NASA space shuttle Endeavour is on the last leg of its final flight to the International Space Station before being retired and donated to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Capt. M(Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
(Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
NEW YORK (AP) — You’ve heard about the International Space Station for years. Want to visit?

NASA announced Friday that the orbiting outpost is now open for business to private citizens, with the first visit expected to be as early as next year.

There is a catch, though: You’ll need to raise your own cash, and it won’t be cheap.

Travelers likely will pay an estimated $58 million for a round-trip ticket. And accommodations will run about $35,000 per night, for trips of up to 30 days long, said 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 U.S. citizens. People from other countries will also be eligible, as long as they fly on a U.S.-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 have to make travel arrangements with those private companies to get into 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.

Depending on the market, the agency will allow up to two visitors per year, for now. And the private astronauts will have 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 program is part of NASA’s efforts to open the station to private industries, which the agency hopes will inherit the orbiting platform someday.

Eventually, the space station will become too expensive for the government to maintain, said Bill Gerstenmaier, a NASA’s 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 will help the agency focus its resources on returning to the moon in 2024, a major goal of the Trump administration. The agency said this will also reduce the cost to U.S. taxpayers for this next lunar mission.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Long-Distance Trip: NASA Opening Space Station to Visitors