NASA’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit held a news conference Friday at Nasdaq in New York City, detailing the space agency’s latest source of funding for future endeavors: you and $50 million of your best spare change.
Along with expanding opportunities for commercial interests on the ISS, DeWit revealed private citizens from around the world can now purchase a flight from Earth to the space station for a unique month-long experience.
But before digging into your savings in hopes of fulfilling childhood fantasies, note that currently, only a maximum of two individuals a year will be able to leave Earth for the station, and the trip’s cost, as well as its intensive qualification process, will automatically weed out most.
The round-trip cost of the 30-day trip to the ISS is estimated between $50 and $58 million, but the CFO notes the final cost of travel is completely up to Boeing and Space X, the companies tasked with transport.
Though US-based companies would receive the funds, American applicants won’t be given preference over any other space hopefuls.
In fact, it was California-based engineer (and multimillionaire) Dennis Tito who, by way of the Russian Federal Space Agency, became the first ISS tourist during his personally funded, eight-day orbit on the ISS in 2001.
As if the sticker shock is not enough to make a terrestrial vacation more attractive, accomodations on the space station will run the private astronaut around $35,000 a night, running $1.05 million for the 30-day trip.
Better get that GoFundMe account started now!
“But it won’t come with any Hilton or Marriott points,” Dewit joked during the live-streamed conference.
Private astronauts will also be required to pass the same medical, training and certification programs as regular crew members, which can take up to two years according to NASA’s website. Additional requirements include a bachelor’s degree in the STEM field and three years of “related professional experience.”
In 2016, only five of the 18,600 applicants were accepted as astronaut candidates.
It’s not just people who will get to venture into space: commercial activity on the ISS is posed to become less about research and more business-based.
"We have no idea what kinds of creativity and literally out-of-the-world ideas can come from private industry," Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s head of Human Exploration and Operations, declared Friday.
While the agency says they have “worked with 11 different companies to install 14 commercial facilities” on the ISS, NASA hopes that opening its doors to sustainable commercial opportunities will promote new innovations and expand interests in space as a market.
According to NASA’s press release Friday morning, the funds obtained from these trips and new commercial endeavors will be directed into future space programs, such as the agency’s 2024 goal of landing the next woman or man on the moon – a goal the US president is not too happy about.
Not long after DeWit and NASA’s big announcement Friday, US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to tell the space agency in a roundabout way that their hopes of landing another individual on the moon (something he claimed NASA’s $1.6 billion budget boost would cover) were dated and lacked focus.
Nevertheless, according to DeWit, there is “a lot of excitement in the commercial sector” for the agency’s future partnership.