Private space travel will begin as early as 2020, but for a hefty price. NASA announced Friday that it would open the International Space Station to private individuals and more commercial business at roughly $35,000 per night per astronaut.
NASA hopes to develop a new space economy in low orbit by opening up to the private sector. It’s also an effort to enable the agency to complete missions to Mars, and put a man and the first woman on the moon by 2024.
NASA expects to accommodate two short-term private astronaut visits to the space station per year in spacecraft designed in partnership with Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, known as the Commercial Crew Program. Missions can last as long as 30 nights and NASA will leave it up to the Commercial Crew Program to plan the trips and provide the training required to prepare private astronauts for space.
“That’s part of the challenge that we’ve given to them to see if the private sector can step up and put all that together to enable this,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, at a Friday press conference. “But we’ve enabled the facility, we’ve defined what use can be done, we’ve tried to provide the parameters so that then the private sector then can take those parameters, put it together and work up a business case.”
Commercial businesses that want to conduct business on the ISS must require a zero gravity-environment, have a connection to NASA’s mission, or contribute to the sustainability of a new economy.
President Donald Trump chimed in on Friday afternoon, stating NASA shouldn’t focus so much of it’s resources on traveling to the moon, and should focus on Mars instead.