NASA will open the US part of the International Space Station (ISS) for tourism and other business initiatives starting next year as it seeks to disengage financially from the orbiting research laboratory.
"NASA is opening the International Space Station to business opportunities and commercializing these opportunities like never before," NASA chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in New York.
The new five-point NASA marketing plan allows up to two short, privately funded astronaut missions each year using US spacecraft, according to ISS deputy director Robyn Gatens.
But using space station facilities will be incredibly expensive for private interests, according to The Verge.
First, there is the cost of a return ticket, estimated at $ 58 million ($ A83m).
Then there is the non-negligible cost of living on board the station.
It will cost $ 11,250 ($ A16,000) per astronaut per day to use life support systems and toilets and $ 22,500 ($ A32,000) per day for all supplies necessary for the crew, such as food, air , medical supplies and more. Power will also cost $ 42 ($ A60) per kilowatt hour.
NASA will allow companies an unprecedented use of its facilities, including shooting commercials or films against the background of space.
NASA also asks the private space industry to send ideas for habitats and modules that can be connected to the space station semi-permanently.
Private companies will be able to buy time and space on the ISS to produce, market or test their products. Companies will also be able to use resources on the ISS for commercial purposes, also using the time and expertise of NASA astronauts.
The moves come as NASA tries to cover the annual cost of $ 3 to $ 4 billion ($ A4.3 to $ A5.7 billion) to operate the ISS, The Verge He says.
The new push for commercialization could provide NASA with more money to pursue much more ambitious missions, such as the goals of the agency to build a new space station around the moon and send humans back to the lunar surface.
Until now, any company that wanted to send products to the US side of the ISS had to prove that there was some educational component for the company or that it revolved around a kind of technological demonstration. No purely commercial project has been authorized to be sent to the ISS, and NASA astronauts are even forbidden to work on experiments if it is the possibility that the research is used to make a profit.
But in 2018, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine formed a committee to examine ways of opening the space agency to commercialization, arguing that doing so could provide new sources of revenue and recognition of names for NASA.
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