NASA To Open International Space Station To Tourists, Costs Are Still To Be Determined

The space agency will charge $35,000 per night, but the cost of getting there on a private spacecraft will be considerably higher.

the international space station photographed by a space shuttle mission in 2020
NASA / Crew of STS-132 / Wikimedia Commons (GPL Cropped and Resized)

The space agency will charge $35,000 per night, but the cost of getting there on a private spacecraft will be considerably higher.

NASA will soon be allowing space tourists the chance to spend one or more night onboard the International Space Station, BBC News reports. At $35,000 per night, that’s something of a bargain. Unfortunately for space tourists, though, the costs of getting to the satellite will far exceed, many times over, the cost of actually staying there.

For years, NASA has banned businesses and private individuals from using the International Space Station (ISS) for tourism, privately-funded research, and other, non-government-sponsored business. However, with the Space Station set to be defunded within the next few years and NASA focusing its efforts on returning to the moon with a view toward eventually putting manned spacecraft on Mars, the ISS risks becoming another piece of space junk orbiting the planet.

To stave that off, NASA is opening up the spacecraft to private research and space tourism. That suits Russia just fine. Russia also has an ownership interest in the craft and has already sent up eight paying tourists to the satellite, as CNBC reports, at a cost of tens of millions per trip.

The cost of renting the space station will not be near that high. NASA announced that the nightly cost to stay on the craft will be $35,000 per person per night, with a maximum stay of 30 nights.

The bargain-basement price of staying at the International Space Station will be eclipsed, likely many times over, by the cost of actually getting there.

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Right now, NASA is without its own means of putting astronauts into space. Instead, it outsources that to private companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, at a cost of about $60 million per trip. That means that, if SpaceX were to send up five paying tourists on its Dragon capsule and split the cost between them, each one would be paying $12 million to get there.

Speaking of SpaceX, the private space exploration company is one of two companies that NASA has given the green light to send paying tourists or researchers into space. The other is Boeing, whose Starliner spacecraft is still in development.

For years, space tourism has been touted as the next big thing in high-dollar travel. However, by and large, those efforts have failed to get off the ground. Several companies promising private space exploration, be it just briefly into orbit or even to the moon (though only orbiting it, not actually landing there), have come and gone over the years.