Space is quickly becoming one of the hottest destinations on earth – or more accurately, near earth.
In an announcement last week, NASA announced plans to support more commercial activities on the International Space Station (ISS) including a plan to allow tourists to visit the ISS for up to 30 days at a time. This reverses the agency’s historic stance on space tourism aboard the world’s only low earth orbit destination. Flights carrying space tourists could begin as early as 2020, depending on interest and availability from NASA’s two prospective launch providers: SpaceX and Boeing. Neither of these companies has launched astronauts from US soil yet, but both are slated to do so by the end of next year.
Both SpaceX and Boeing have had permission to carry non-astronaut passengers to space, but there were no official policies which allowed these passengers to spend time aboard the ISS. Before launch, prospective space tourists will spend time training for space and life in microgravity. Both Boeing and SpaceX can carry up to seven passengers – though NASA has only committed to filling a maximum of four seats on any given launch, leaving three available for space tourists.
"We're enabling up to two commercial flights with private astronauts per year," said Robyn Gatens, NASA's ISS Deputy Director. "Depending on how many seats they want to carry, that would be a dozen or so private astronauts potentially per year on the International Space Station."
How much will a trip to the space station eat into your travel fund? NASA’s Chief Financial Officer Jim DeWit shared that the cost of life support and toilet facilities is roughly US$11,250 per day, and food, air, medical, and fitness resources add another US$22,500. This totals roughly US$33,750 (€29,825) per day – plus you’ll need to cover the cost of the launch itself on Boeing or SpaceX. Consider this a once-in-a-lifetime trip! The only remaining question is: do you need to pack your passport?