Washington : Antarctica used to be one of the most remote destinations on travellers’ bucket lists, but there will soon be an even more exclusive club to join. Last week, NASA announced its intention to open up the International Space Station to tourists. For the last two decades, astronauts from 18 countries have lived aboard the research facility, which orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 250 miles. As early as 2020, private companies will be able to send private astronauts—or space tourists—on a vacation of a lifetime as part of an initiative to have “US industry innovation and ingenuity. accelerate a thriving commercial economy in low-Earth orbit,” according to a NASA press release.
The estimated cost of the journey is 58 million dollars for a return trip lasting 30 days, or “around 35,000 dollar a night per astronaut”, according to the agency’s financial director, Jeff DeWit. Besides transport and accommodation costs, rich tourists from Earth will have to pay out to meet their basic needs at an altitude of 400 kilometres.
According to a price list (per day, per person) published by the American space agency, bathrooms and first aid kits on board will cost 11,250 dollars; food, air and exercise equipment costs 22,500 dollars, a gigabyte of data costs 50 dollars and waste removal costs 3,000 dollars per kilo. In 2001, the first space tourist, Dennis Tito, paid Russia around 20 million dollars for the chance to see the Earth from space. Since then, seven other private guests have paid for the same opportunity. For scientists, this commercialisation means that they’ll soon be able to perform their own experiments and conduct their own research aboard the ISS without having to participate in specific NASA programmes.