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NASA Reverses Course on Space Tourism, Opens ISS to Private Astronauts, Companies

After years of restricting access to the International Space Station to its own astronauts, NASA is now planning to let private citizens and corporations visit the orbiting laboratory.

While that will certainly encourage multi-millionaire daredevils (who previously had to go to Russia if they wanted to visit the space station), NASA believes the real potential could be corporate.

NASA is letting companies bid for activities on the ISS to “enable commercial manufacturing and production and allow both NASA and private astronauts to conduct new commercial activities aboard the orbiting laboratory.”

This will broaden the scope of the research that can be done on the ISS beyond the current parameters of scientific research.

Private missions of up to 30 days are available for two individuals per year starting in 2020, with companies like SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Boeing handling the tourism side. From that, NASA will pick up $35,000 per day, but the entire trip is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars per person.

“Market studies identified private astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit as a key element to demonstrate demand and reduce risk for future commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit,” NASA said.

The policy change is meant to help the space agency raise additional funding and reduce its own operating expenses. NASA has been considering the change since late last year.

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