So the ISS will never really be a sellout—come on, some of NASA’s coolest science is done right there in space—but those with cash to burn could be planning their next vacation there as soon as next year.
Space tourism is the hot new market of the future, and NASA has made it official that “private astronaut missions to the space station” (which really just translates to a vacay in low-Earth orbit) will start happening for up to 30 days each. Don't expect a rocket full of eager travelers in space suits. The agency will only be able to accommodate up to two of these missions a year for now. That, and it’s going to cost you $35,000 a night. At least that’s less than Blue Origin.
“NASA defines a private astronaut mission as a commercial mission consisting of activities to be conducted on the ISS (or in a commercial segment attached to the ISS) by private astronauts, transported on a commercial launch vehicle dedicated to this private mission,” the space agency said in a recent research announcement. “These private missions must use U.S. transportation vehicles certified by NASA.”
If you’re looking beyond Earth for your next getaway, then you’d better start getting into astronaut shape. Private astronauts are going to have to meet NASA’s medical standards and go through all the training and certification processes that ISS crew members do, so they have more than enough reason to believe you’re going to stay alive. Be ready for that to involve more than just a gym membership for getting your ideal beach body.
NASA isn’t just doing this to be trendy. A demand for space tourism really does exist, and you have to start somewhere, even if booking a ticket is out of the realm of possibility for most of us. The space agency sees an eventual market for travel to off-Earth destinations, floating habitats that will offer accommodations that might be slightly more affordable than a room on the space station.
The vacation thing is probably going to get put on hold for a while since NASA is most interested in “private astronauts” connected to a business with solid objectives. But hey, at least you can start saving now.