A few weeks ago, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it will open the International Space Station (ISS) to private astronauts. Does this mean that you are a step closer to going up to space?

Not quite.

Only for business matters

NASA is only specifically allowing non-NASA employees conducting approved marketing and commercial activities which:

  • Are related to the development of a low-earth economy
  • Need microgravity conditions to facilitate the development of a commercial application.

Needless to say, this is far from casually going into space just because.

Hope is not lost

This doesn’t mean that you should fully give up on that space adventure. Even before this announcement, other companies already offer space trips for civilians. Last year, for instance, private company Axiom Space started offering a 10-day trip for space tourists.

Excited to pack your bags and be launched into space? You should be if you have $55 million to pay for the trip.

What’s in it for NASA? 

The seven-seater Crew Dragon of SpaceX, along with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are the candidate spacecrafts where the private astronauts will be boarded. Overall, NASA will only be charging $1 million per private astronauts. This could cut the costs of flying NASA’s astronauts but far from fully funding a Moon program.

For NASA, this program will serve as a measure of commercial interest in space exploration. Russia, the partner of USA in funding the ISS is contemplating on the withdrawal of its financial support completely. If this happens, NASA will have to rely on other means to keep ISS in orbit. Private companies are great candidates for this.

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What’s in it for businesses?

A million bucks is a measly cost for being able to explore space. For businesses, this is an accessible opportunity to see whether there is interest in space in the commercial context. If such interest exists, they could then consider setting up their own space stations which could serve as, for example, space hotels.

Partnering with NASA, business entities will then form a new kind of economy which is literally out of this world.

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