November 29, 2019 - 12:20 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - NASA wants to purchase a seat on a private astronaut flight in the next five years, the agency announced earlier this week, Forbes reports.
It’s another move that should open up the International Space Station to astronauts outside the government sphere — which is a big difference from today.
Most people in space are government employees. To be fair, a handful of space tourists have visited the orbiting complex, such as entrepreneur Dennis Tito and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. But these people paid large sums of money to Russian officials and were not employed by any company. Future private astronauts may be employees of a firm, sent up for 15 to 30 days for a specific set of experiments or other work that can only be done in space.
NASA recognizes its role as a government reference customer to stimulate the space economy. That’s one reason that it purchased so many ISS cargo flights from SpaceX and Northrop Grumman over the years, and why it gave government contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to fly government astronauts on private spacecraft in the near future (perhaps 2020, if all goes to plan).
But private astronaut flights are another frontier altogether.
The agency has a vision of opening up the ISS to a series of companies that would bring up their own astronauts, paying essentially a rental fee to use NASA space facilities for their own work. And NASA plans to put a government astronaut on at least one of these flights to give a bit of seed money, which would help boost the efforts to bring more private astronauts into space.