NASA to open International Space Station to tourists from 2020

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This handout illustration obtained May 31, 2019 courtesy of NASA shows planet Earth rimming the Moon's horizon with a commercial lander that will carry NASA-provided science and technology payloads to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024. (AFP)
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From right, Jeff Dewit, NASA's Chief Financial Officer; Robyn Gatens, NASA's Deputy Director of the International Space Station; Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission, and Stephanie L. Schierholz Public Affairs Officer/Human Exploration and Operations, NASA, attend a news conference at Nasdaq in New York on Friday, June 7, 2019. (AP)
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NASA commercial crew astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover run through a training session at a replica International Space Station (ISS) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 22, 2019. (REUTERS)
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NASA commercial crew astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover run through a training session at a replica International Space Station (ISS) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 22, 2019. (REUTERS)
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NASA commercial crew astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover run through a training session at a replica International Space Station (ISS) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 22, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 June 2019
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NASA to open International Space Station to tourists from 2020

  • Travelers will pay an estimated $58 million for a round-trip ticket. And accommodations will run about $35,000 per night, for trips of up to 30 days long

NEW YORK: NASA said Friday it will open up the International Space Station to business ventures including space tourism as it seeks to financially disengage from the orbiting research lab.
Price tag? Tens of millions of dollars for a round trip ticket and $35,000 a night.
“NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we’ve never done before,” NASA chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in an announcement made at the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York.
There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, said Robyn Gatens, deputy director of the ISS.
The missions will be for stays of up to 30 days. As many as a dozen private astronauts could visit the ISS per year, NASA said.
These travelers would be ferried to the orbiter exclusively by the two US companies currently developing transport vehicles for NASA: SpaceX, with its Crew Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which is building one called Starliner.
These companies would choose the clients — who will not have to be US citizens — and bill for the trip to the ISS, which will be the most expensive part of the adventure: around $58 million for a roundtrip ticket.
That is the average rate the companies will bill NASA for taking the space adventurers up to the ISS.
Neither Dragon nor Starliner are ready. Their transport capsules are supposed to be ready in late 2019 but the timetable depends on the results of a series of tests. So the private missions will have to wait until 2020 at the earliest.
The tourists will pay NASA for their use of the station, for food, water and use of the life support system.
That will run about $35,000 per night per astronaut, said DeWit.
That does not include Internet, which will cost $50 per gigabyte.

The space station does not belong to NASA. It was built along with Russia starting in 1998, and other countries participate in the mission and send up astronauts.
But the United States has paid for and controls most of the modules that make it up.
The new space tourists to the ISS will not be the first: US businessman Dennis Tito had that honor in 2001. He paid Russia around $20 million for the trip.
Others followed in his footsteps, the last being Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte in 2009.
Since 2011, Russian Soyuz rockets have been the only way to get to the space station. And they have transported only space agency astronauts, in addition to Russian cosmonauts.
There are usually three to six crew members on the ISS at any given time. Right now it is home to three Americans, two Russians and a Canadian.
Russia plans to resume tourist flights in late 2021.
The policy change announced Friday includes the opening of parts of the ISS to private sector companies for commercial and marketing activity.
This would include startups developing techiques for building materials in conditions of weightlessness.
Fiber optic cables, for example, are of extraordinary quality when manufactured in microgravity.
The idea is to develop the space economy in the hope of seeing the private sector take over the ISS, which the United States hopes to stop financing in the late 2020s.
“We want to be there as a tenant, not as the landlord,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in April.
The agency wants to free up funds for a return to the moon mission called Artemis in 2024 and for sending the first humans to Mars, perhaps in the 2030s.
But it remains unclear if commercial activity in earth orbit is profitable because it is still so expensive to get up there in the first place.
In the end, NASA appears to have changed its stance in order to meet its huge budget needs.
When Russia announced it was taking Tito to the space station, NASA was at first opposed to such a mission. And it ended up sending the Russians a bill for his stay on the ISS.


What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

Updated 16 June 2019
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What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

  • Some of the gifts have either gone missing, were stolen or destroyed over the decades

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Richard Nixon gave moon rocks collected by Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 astronauts to 135 countries around the world and the 50 US states as a token of American goodwill.
While some hold pride of place in museums and scientific institutions, many others are unaccounted for — they have either gone missing, were stolen or even destroyed over the decades.
The list below recounts the stories of some of the missing moon rocks and others that were lost and later found.
It is compiled from research done by Joseph Gutheinz Jr, a retired NASA special agent known as the “Moon Rock Hunter,” his students, and collectSPACE, a website which specializes in space history.

• Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks presented to perpetually war-wracked Afghanistan have vanished.

• One of the moon rocks destined for Cyprus was never delivered due to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and the assassination of the US ambassador the following month.
It was given to NASA years later by the son of a US diplomat but has not been handed over to Cyprus.

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," displays meteorite fragments in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. (AFP / Loren Elliot)



• Honduras’s Apollo 17 moon rock was recovered by Gutheinz and Bob Cregger, a US Postal Service agent, in a 1998 undercover sting operation baptized “Operation Lunar Eclipse.”
It had been sold to a Florida businessman, Alan Rosen, for $50,000 by a Honduran army colonel. Rosen tried to sell the rock to Gutheinz for $5 million. It was seized and eventually returned to Honduras.

• Ireland’s Apollo 11 moon rock was on display in Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory, which was destroyed in a 1977 fire. Debris from the observatory — including the moon rock — ended up in the Finglas landfill.

• The Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks given to then Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi have vanished.

• Malta’s Apollo 17 moon rock was stolen from a museum in May 2004. It has not been found.

• Nicaragua’s Apollo 17 moon rock was allegedly sold to someone in the Middle East for $5-10 million. Its Apollo 11 moon rock ended up with a Las Vegas casino owner, who displayed it for a time in his Moon Rock Cafe. Bob Stupak’s estate turned it over to NASA when he died. It has since been returned to Nicaragua.

• Romania’s Apollo 11 moon rock is on display in a museum in Bucharest. Romania’s Apollo 17 moon rock is believed to have been sold by the estate of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989.


Spain’s Apollo 17 moon rock is on display in Madrid’s Naval Museum after being donated by the family of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA in 1973.
Spain’s Apollo 11 moon rock is missing and is believed to be in the hands of the family of former dictator Francisco Franco.
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