Nasa to open ISS up to private space tourists from 2020

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NASA's five-part commercialisation blueprint also calls for the agency to facilitate the development of technology needed for free-flying research labs it could then rent out in the future. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Friday that for the first time it is allowing private citizens to visit the International Space Station, the only place where people now live off the planet.

There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, according to Robyn Gatens, the deputy director of the ISS.

The round-trip ticket will cost an estimated $58 million.

"Enabling a vibrant economy in low-Earth orbit has always been a driving element of the space station (programme), and will make space more accessible to all Americans", Ms Koch said. It's a little pricey, however - roughly 35-thousand-dollars a night. Each flight would have four seats.

The change applies only to the US portion of the ISS and ends a long-standing prohibition of commercial activity.

"NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we've never done before", chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in NY.

"We're looking to the private sector to do the training, to do the transportation, to work out the accommodations, to be the interface between the individuals that want to fly the private astronauts and us", Gerstenmaier said.

"Nasa's approach is created to lower but not totally remove the risk for the private sector, entrepreneurs and companies".

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In addition, NASA would charge companies as much as $18,000 per kilogram for a round trip to and from the station.

NASA had previously banned any commercial use of the space station and prohibited astronauts from taking part in for-profit research, BBC News reported.

"But it won't come with any Hilton or Marriott points", DeWit said.

The space station does not belong to NASA.

Space Adventures, a Virginia-based company that has helped several private citizens get to the station on Russian rockets, has a contract with Boeing to help sell seats aboard its spacecraft. It has limited space tourism up to 2 per cent and limits the uses of the Space Station resources up to 5% to the commercial activities.

The announcement comes as the agency is trying to return humans to the moon by 2024, a crash mission that officials said would require significant additional funding.

"The agency's ultimate goal in low-Earth orbit is to partner with industry to achieve a strong ecosystem in which NASA is one of many customers purchasing services and capabilities at lower cost", the NASA release reads.

Traveling to space is very close to being a reality.